Movie Review: Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors

Hi Friends,

Not long ago, I was poking through the DVD options at the library, for something to watch while knitting. I do this often, and, as usual, came home with a handful of titles that caught my eye, some of which I was familiar with, and some of which just sounded interesting based on the blurb on the back of the case.

One of the movies I came home with is Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors. At the time, I did not realize that it had aired as a Christmas special, but that was only relevant to the intro where Dolly Parton introduced it. Click here to read the summary on IMDB

My review that follows WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS. I will discuss important plot points. If you want to watch it and be surprised, do not read further.

This movie is not very long, since it aired as a special, but I ended up watching it in two parts, on two separate days, because I reached a part that ended up being emotionally difficult for me. This is the element I will primarily discuss. As for the rest of the movie, it was very sweet, and the child acting, while not perfect, was actually quite decent and not at all awkward to watch. The story has a distinct moral, emphasizing the importance of family, religion, and forgiveness. Wikipedia article, with a bit more detail

The portion I would particularly like to discuss was a formative event occurring early in the film, and the familial results of which end up forming the bulk of the plot. Yes, I’ve hinted already, but if you don’t want to know, stop reading now!

The formative event in the family was the premature birth and immediate death of Dolly’s little brother Larry, for whom she was expected to care, as in their family, older siblings essentially got assigned a younger sibling to watch out for. Dolly was very excited, and was crushed and mourned for a long time. Additionally, the movie portrayed her as having peeked through the bedroom door and seen her mother in labor, and her brother’s hand waving, and her father’s face as the baby was not doing well. This seemed to haunt her some, and it certainly haunted me. I was saddened to watch a family go through something like that, but it also wrenched my heart as it pulled up memories of holding my own babe just after birth, completely still. And I’ll admit to some jealousy, too, that they got to see their child alive. (Edited to add: Note: in the movie, it appears he dies within minutes; according to this article, it was 4 days later: Dolly’s Siblings)

The movie handled grief very well – tactfully, but also showing how each person’s pain shows itself differently, how couples navigate differently and need to find common ground, and that children grieve too, not just adults, and need the guidance of the adults.

Another touching aspect is that the colored coat that ended up being an important aspect as well, was actually originally a quilted baby blanket that the mother had made in anticipation of the baby. It was turning this blanket into a coat for Dolly that helped the mother heal enough to be functional again. Did you know I also had a project I couldn’t touch at first, and that was helpful in my healing process as well? (I mention it in this post, but it doesn’t have it’s own post yet: Learning and Growing)

The movie also explores bullying, self confidence, the importance of faith to this family, and communication. It was remarkably deep, and I’d never really explored music by Dolly Parton before, and subsequent to watching this, I listened to some of her songs, and found the lyrics to be deep and heartfelt. I’d recommend this movie, with the caveat to grieving parents that this may be really difficult to watch, especially if your loss was of an infant.

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah

Infant loss resource document:

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