"... As usual with Bikel, there is a minimum of editorializing, a maximum of alert sympathy for everybody talked to, and a startled eye, a kind of exacerbated witness, on unruly emotions and lunatic systems. We emerge from When Kids Get Life, as from each of her previous films, not merely indignant, but injured in our humanism."
"... [A]n impressively subtle film ...
"There is, indeed, something hauntingly familiar about the idyllic suburban houses that are home to so much family agony in this narrative. One parent, the venture capitalist father of Erik [Jensen] ... notes that his family address is Littleton, Colo., the town adjacent to Columbine High.
"How this well-loved, loving and stable youth came to be in this pass is the whole point of this story -- a point, like that of every other portrait here, made with perfect and terrifying clarity."
"As she has done in several previous award-winning efforts, writer-director-producer Bikel tackles underlying social questions and psychological motivations as she explores a peculiar corner of American criminal justice. Her speciality (sic) has long been examinations of wrongful convictions. ...
"'When Kids Get Life' joins the formidable Bikel archive, beseeching us to think hard about what constitutes justice."
"... In cherry-picking a handful of Colorado cases in which there appear to be extenuating circumstances involving convicts who are likely to appear more sympathetic to a wide audience, Bikel's not only stacking the deck, she's hurting the larger argument.
"If there are indeed biological reasons we shouldn't hold teens as responsible as their elders for their actions, then that has to apply to even the least presentable offender, not just the ones with articulate parents and passionate, media-savvy lawyers."
"... To shed sympathy on a convict is always a tricky proposition; there's danger of going the way of the film 'The Shawshank Redemption,' which treated its prison subjects as absurdly gentle souls. Bikel treads the line well -- and responsibly -- by declining to sugarcoat the crimes themselves. ..."
"... Producer/director Ofra Bikel could have stated her case with three examples instead of five, but the stories are devastating -- for both perpetrators' and victims' families. ..."
"... It's obvious, through Bikel's reporting and interviewing, that When Kids Get Life is slanted toward a rehabilitation process rather than punishment without parole. Still, the pro and con discussions surrounding the issues should attract the attention of the local justice community. ..."
"... The point clearly is that teenagers don't ever deserve life without parole. In the individual cases, however, who knows who's telling the truth? The filmmaker, Ofra Bikel, clearly believes the guys. And so does the viewer. It's not that the filmmaker is so persuasive, it's that there is almost no one else to rely on. ...
"... You can judge for yourself if these teenagers qualify as the worst of the worst. You're not going to see this kind of in-depth examination of court cases and sentencing on those TV shows obsessed with crime and punishment. But you need to see it."
"When Kids Get Life is clear-eyed and thought-provoking. It's unlikely to sway hardened opinion on either side of the debate, but it's worth seeing."