A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The central couple makes all the wrong moves; they start out marrying for love, but then major life decisions drive a wedge between them. They grow violent toward one another and then grow apart. They rarely talk or work together try to solve these problems, and eventually their path leads to much darker places.
Positive Role Models
David gives up his dream to work for his father, and it costs him his happiness. He begins to act crazy and violent and alienates his wife, who wants to have a baby. David and Katie continue to spiral out of control, getting worse and worse, without ever taking action to solve their problems or work together. Katie eventually realizes her dream of going to medical school, but she does so partly to hide from her pain and anguish. Both characters tend to drown their troubles in alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes.
Violence & Scariness
Three (possible) murders are shown to varying degrees. Some happen totally off-screen, while one involves a gun and blood oozing from the back of the victim's head. Another victim is beaten to death but not shown. There are bloody clues pointing to the murders. Also occasional arguments and fits of rage; in one scene, the husband grabs his wife and drags her by the hair. She turns up with a black eye in another scene. Discussion of a past suicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The married couple flirts, kisses, seduces each other, and has sex. Nudity is limited to a shower scene in which breasts are visible in silhouette.
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Infrequent use of "f--k" and "motherf----r." Also "a--hole."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The characters regularly smoke cigarettes and pot and snort coke. They also drink quite often in a social context, i.e. beer and wine at dinner or harder drinks at parties.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this downbeat drama -- which is based on the true story of a man involved in a disappearance and two deaths over the course of 30 years -- tells the tale of a destroyed marriage and two miserable lives. There's some violence and blood related to the murders, as well as ugly fights between the married couple. They kiss and seduce each other and have sex (though there's little nudity). Language is limited to a few uses of "f--k," but there's lots of drinking and drug use, including cigarettes, cocaine, and pot. Teens may be interested to see what stars Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst are up to, but this depressing, flat movie won't cause much of a stir. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is director Andrew Jarecki's fictional debut, and unfortunately, it isn't particularly engaging. Jarecki, who gave audiences the brutally powerful dysfunctional family documentary Capturing the Friedmans, now turns his skills to a "based on a true story" feature film -- and interestingly, he takes a documentary-like approach to the material, narrating the tale with Marks' court transcript and filling in the blanks with deduction and imagination.
The material is relentlessly harrowing, and it's difficult to know just where the characters stand: David is shown to be slightly unhinged, and there's no one to root for. Additionally, Jarecki employs some fairly standard-issue thriller elements, such as jump-shocks and things hiding in the shadows, which seem unworthy of this story. It's difficult, ultimately, to discern the point of the movie, other than to comment on how depressing and futile it all is.
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.