About a Boy

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
About a Boy Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Edgy, sweet book-based dramedy has profanity, mature themes.
  • PG-13
  • 2002
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 16 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The shallowness of materialism is shown, as is the emptiness of short-term relationships centered exclusively on sexual gratification; traits like thoughtfulness and consideration are shown to be much more desirable and important. Marcus has the conviction to be a vegetarian, and is willing to sing a song in front of his entire school that he knows will isolate him even further and expose him to ridicule because he believes it will make his mother (who is suffering from depression) happy. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character starts out rather selfish, but ends up caring a great deal about Marcus. He's also caught in a lie and comes clean, even though it hurts his chances with a love interest. Bullies at school pick on Marcus because he's different and Marcus handles it with maturity. Characters demonstrate humility and empathy.

Violence

Suicide attempt by one character who swallows pills, is shown passed out on a couch. Marcus is harassed/bullied by boys at school-- they kick a soccer ball that hits him in the head, chase him down the street, throw candy at his head. Lead character hit in head with an apple. 

Sex

Sexual references -- main character starts as a cad. Mild sex talk between teenagers. 

Language

"F--k." "F--king hell." "S--t." Kids say "s--t," "piss off," "crap" British slang like "bollocks." Molestation insinuations. 

Consumerism

Will cares a lot about fancy products/brands. He purchases a pair of Sketchers shoes for Marcus in the hopes of making him fit in with his classmates. Talk between a mom and son about going to McDonald's to eat a Big Mac. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main character's father is shown as an alcoholic, but only in a brief flashback. Beer and wine drinking at holidays or at dinner. Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that About a Boy is a 2002 movie based on a novel by Nick Hornby in which Hugh Grant plays a self-centered playboy who starts to become a better person after meeting a misfit 14-year-old with a depressed and suicidal mother. There's some strong language (including two uses of "f--k"), including profanity used by teenagers. Some sexual references (Will is an unabashed love-'em-and-leave-'em guy). A parent is clinically depressed and attempts suicide, and her child feels responsible. Another child becomes hysterical about the prospect of his mother dating. Marcus' mother fears that Will has an improper interest in Marcus. There are some brief molestation insinuations. Characters drink and smoke.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymoviemadness July 4, 2011

Sweet Family Movie

Known in my family as "Love Actually Lite" this film has all of the great elements of the aforementioned with much less objectionable content. It... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 28, 2020
Teen, 16 years old Written byinspiringpuppies December 29, 2018

Meh

Great Messages - It has very little good messages but a man learns about caring for children -
Role Models - The main character changes from selfish to caring... Continue reading

What's the story?

ABOUT A BOY, based on the book of the same name by Nick Hornby, is the story of a shallow man appropriately named Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) who wants to live life entirely self-contained with no reason to form attachments of any kind. Will's plan to avoid romantic emotional entanglements: single mothers. He decides it's the perfect relationship; they have low expectations and a sympathetic listener can get pretty far with them. So he pretends to be a single parent himself, makes up a 2-year-old son, and attends a support group in order to meet them. At a group picnic, Will meets a 14-year-old named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). Marcus is isolated but does not want to be. His single mother is severely depressed and even the outcasts at school think he is too much of a dork to hang out with. Marcus just shows up at Will's home every afternoon to watch television and ultimately insists on becoming the closest thing to a friend that Will has ever known.

Is it any good?

The plot may sound like manipulative claptrap from a made-for-TV movie, but the theme has so much appeal that even a lousy script and poor production values can't completely destroy it. But when it's done well -- or even very, very well, as it is here -- it turns into a purely satisfying and enjoyable film.

We know from Bridget Jones's Diary and even Small Time Crooks that Hugh Grant relishes playing a cad. Freed from the obligation to be the perfect boyfriend of Notting Hill-type movies, he gives us a superb performance of great honesty and subtlety and flawless comedy timing. There is a lot in About a Boy for teens and parents to enjoy and discuss.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the roles of friendship and other relationships in About a Boy and in our lives. Why is it important to Will not to have any relationships? Why are the kids in school so mean to Marcus? How does Will's relationship with Marcus make him more interested in one with Rachel?

  • How are Will and Marcus alike, and how are they different? Is it right for Marcus to believe that it's his responsibility to make his mother feel better? What kind of grown-up will Marcus be? How does helping Marcus change Will's feelings about him?

  • Talk about the definition of "girlfriend" that Will and Marcus discuss -- and Marcus' idea about the importance of having back-up.

  • Talk about depression and its causes and treatments. What can you do if you or someone you know is depressed?

  • How does Will learn empathy and humility in About a Boy? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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