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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Even in the darkest times, hope can still be found. But the film sends a barrage of bleak messages to get there: Your family and loved ones can die at any moment. One mistake can have consequences that haunt you for life. And cheating is OK if you're in a loveless relationship.
Positive Role Models
Reckless behavior all around, though characters are humanized: Cristina -- who's in grief -- does drugs, tries to drive while high, etc. Jack tries his best to become a better person through religion, but his mistakes still have fatal consequences, and he physically/verbally abuses his children. Paul cheats on his wife. Characters have unsafe sex.
Diversity behind the camera includes Mexican filmmakers Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga. On-screen, the three main characters include Cristina Peck (played by Naomi Watts, who's White); Paul Rivers, who has disabilities due to his heart condition (Sean Penn, White); and Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro, multiracial Latino including Puerto Rican, but the role is White-passing). Other than Cristina, women have flat characterizations, such as being obsessed with getting pregnant, etc. Brief stereotypes: Black teens play basketball in juvenile detention and get into a fight, there's a Latino gardener, and disabilities are portrayed as terminal and/or unwanted (one person uses the term "I am a f--king amputee" to describe how it feels to have their family die).
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Violence & Scariness
Characters shoot guns and get shot. An unconscious character lies in a pool of blood as a woman holds him, crying out for help. Two apparent suicide attempts -- one is bloody/gory. Hospital scenes include a main character who's intubated and hooked up to IVs, visible surgery scars, discussions of heart failure and death, etc. A character dies peacefully on-screen. A parent slaps his kids and yells at them. A parent and his children die in a car accident (off-screen, but police cars surround the scene, and a child's shoe is visible); the mom sobs when she hears the news. Scenes of grieving as a mom throws away children's bikes, struggles to enter their old room, etc.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters have sex (bare breasts and thrusting visible), kiss, grope, and lie naked in bed together the morning after (bare backs, breasts, and a rear end are visible). Brief scene of an explicit pornographic film plays at a fertility clinic. Discussions of fertility complications, a past abortion, and getting pregnant.
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Several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Characters also say "bulls--t," "bastard," and "pr--k." A disabled man says someone "made [him] feel like a cripple." A character jokingly flips their middle finger.
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Products & Purchases
Coke and Diet Coke are visible and mentioned a few times. Characters use Dawn dish detergent.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main characters frequently smoke cigarettes. They also drink alcohol, snort cocaine, and take pills on-screen. A drunk driving incident kills three people (not depicted, but it's a key plot point).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that 21 Grams is the second film in writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Death Trilogy" (the others are Amores Perros and Babel). Violence includes on-screen suicide attempts, an unconscious character lying in a pool of blood as a woman cries out for help, and hospital scenes with sick characters. A parent and his children die in a car accident (off-screen); the mom sobs when she hears the news. A parent slaps their kids and verbally abuses them. Language includes several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "bastard" and "pr--k." Explicit sex scenes show naked breasts, a rear end, and thrusting, and there's a brief glimpse of a pornographic film. Characters frequently smoke cigarettes. They also drink, snort cocaine, and take pills, and a drunk driving incident is a key plot point in the film. Though the film's on-screen content is almost entirely bleak, it does eventually conclude that hope can be found even in the darkest times. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Penn gives one of the most sensitive performances of his career in this harrowing drama. He's completely convincing in 21 Grams as a math professor, showing an extraordinary range of subtle and complex emotions. Watts and Del Toro are also outstanding. Iñárritu uses a hand-held camera and directs with a simple and intimate feeling, creating a raw experience as viewers go through the lead characters' (few) ups and (many) downs.
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.