Parents' Guide to

Life as a House

By Nell Minow, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Uneven but moving story of reconcilliation.

Movie R 2001 125 minutes
Life as a House Poster Image

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Kids say (2 ):

This film is unexpectedly touching. When a movie is called LIFE AS A HOUSE, you enter on full metaphor alert. When it turns out to be about an estranged father and son who pull down an old shack and construct a dream house overlooking the ocean and it turns out to be a transforming experience for everyone who happens by while it is in progress plus including a tragic death that is still another transforming experience for everyone, you have every right to expect a generic made-for-TV-movie uplifting weepie. But this movie gives us something more, thanks to a script by Mark Andrus (of "As Good as it Gets") and a first-rate cast.

There is a lot wrong with Life as a House. The plot is creaky and manipulative. The female characters are all fantasy figures. Some of the plot lines never get resolved -- they just stop (or, in one case, just fall off the roof). The solution to the problem with the neighbor is unintentionally unnerving. But there is a lot that is right with the movie, too, including subtle, magnetic performances and moments of real power and feeling. If the movie is not as dazzling as the finished house, at least it is not as decrepit as the shack.

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