A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive MessagesThe story's main concern is the interaction between family members surrounding the death and burial of mother and wife Addie. Many of them have their own opinions of how things should go, and some of them try to act on these opinions, while others disagree. The ending is ambiguous as to just how much the family will be able to stick together after their trials and tribulations.
Positive Role ModelsCharacters are not the strong suit here. These folks are seen at a bad time of life when they are all severely tested, and none of them are on their best behavior. However, offscreen, James Franco might be admired for his prodigious work ethic. Aside from his prolific acting career, he has already directed several features and shorts, written screenplays, published books, and even teaches courses in filmmaking.
Violence & ScarinessA character breaks his leg, and a doctor tries to set the bone while he screams in pain. Later, the leg is shown to be gangrenous and a doctor begins to saw it off. Some blood is shown. The matriarch of the family dies, although she continues to "narrate" the story. The family escapes from a barn fire; one man tries to rescue the coffin and catches on fire himself. A character is arrested, and two men jump on him and wrestle him into submission. Also, the family argues a great deal. In a disturbing scene, a doctor has intercourse with a woman in "payment" for an abortion; we see some rough thrusting, but no nudity.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & NudityA man is shown full-frontally naked for just a second or two (not James Franco). A woman is seen having sex in the tall grass, with nothing sensitive shown.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
LanguageFairly infrequent language includes "bastard," "hell," "son of a bitch," "damn." Characters also reference God, but in a reverent way.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & SmokingA character is given whisky to drink as a painkiller before a doctor sets his broken leg. The doctor also takes a swig.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that As I Lay Dying is an adaptation of William Faulkner's great 1930 novel, written, directed by, and starring James Franco. It contains some disturbing violence, notably a broken leg that turns gangrenous and must be sawed off (a little blood is shown). And of course, death is at the center of the story. There's also a disturbing scene in which an abortion doctor has sex with a patient as "payment" for her services. A fully naked man is shown for a second or two, and there's another, gentler sex scene. Language is light, and includes "son of a bitch." There's one scene of drinking, but mainly as a painkiller during the broken leg sequence. High school students struggling with the book may not find much help here, but older, hardcore Faulkner fans may appreciate it. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
AS I LAY DYING takes more risks than most movies. It has been decades since anyone attempted to adapt a William Faulkner novel for the big screen, and certainly As I Lay Dying -- a novel with 15 different narrators -- was a difficult choice for actor/writer/director and all-around Renaissance man James Franco. Perhaps the easiest thing would have been to make one of those glossy, reverent, literary movies that never sprang to life. What Franco came up with instead is messy, bizarre, muted, and confusing, but it's also heartfelt and personal.
Franco is not precious about the period details. The costumes look like actual clothing, and the sets feel like real, lived-in places. The Mississippi accents are thick and unruly; it's very difficult to understand much of what Tim Blake Nelson -- who mumbles through a mouthful of rotten teeth -- says. Indeed, it's difficult to tune into any individual character, but the overall mood and the sense of family connection are quite strong.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.