All Is Bright

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
All Is Bright Movie Poster Image
Oddly touching Christmas tale about ex-con, jilted love.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 107 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Forgiveness can come slowly, but when it does, it can be the key to freedom. Another key theme is transformation.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dennis and Rene are both criminals trying to go straight, but it's hard when they’re making so little and there are so many tempting, valuable targets.


A man is assaulted during a violent robbery involving a gun, leaving his face bloody and battered.


A very brief glimpse of nudity when a woman is seen changing out of her clothes (shown through a window from far away, so nothing detailed is seen), and some flirting. A character's wife starts seeing someone else while her husband is in jail.


A fair amount of profanity, including "f--k," "s--t," and "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some adults smoke cigarettes often, and they occasionally get drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that All Is Bright focuses on the relationship between an ex-con newly paroled from prison (Paul Giamatti) and his former partner (Paul Rudd), who has taken up with Dennis' wife during the former's long time behind bars. There's plenty of tension between them, but they also need to cooperate to complete a job. Expect frequent swearing (including "f--k," "s--t," and more), brief nudity when a woman changes her clothes (seen from far away, through a window), and a few violent scenes (a man is beaten up and left bloodied), as well as occasional drinking and a few characters who smoke cigarettes.  

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What's the story?

Newly paroled from prison in Quebec, Dennis (Paul Giamatti) has no money, no job, and no place to live, since his wife (Amy Landecker) has taken up with his former partner-in-crime, Rene (Paul Rudd). Dennis is determined to go straight, even if it means taking the only job available: joining Rene to haul a load of Christmas trees to New York. Spending the holidays living together in a camper on the city streets makes the unlikely duo much more aware of each other's faults and doesn't do much to rekindle their friendship. Neither does a long-held grudge about a job gone awry. But together and separately -- as Dennis strikes up a surprising friendship with an aloof, gruff Russian immigrant (Sally Hawkins) -- they both explore who they actually are and who they want to be.

Is it any good?

ALL IS BRIGHT is a movie about transformation and forgiveness that's masquerading as a buddy comedy, with two main characters who are as unlikely to be friends as pals can be. Dennis is a drifter and a malcontent, embittered by the hand that life -- and a life of crime -- has dealt him. Rene is oblivious and jolly, unencumbered by too many failures. No wonder their friendship combusts.

But the beauty of All Is Bright is that its metamorphosis into a movie with, yes, a message is subversive. And redemption doesn't come in the form that the audience might expect. The happenstance way that people who run into one another's orbit changes their lives is captured here, though the movie's charms are tempered somewhat by its circuitous script, and the pacing is frustratingly dogged at times, too. All Is Bright isn't a Christmas story in the classic sense, but it tugs at the heart nonetheless.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about All Is Bright's messages. Is the movie about friendship? Forgiveness? Who do you think it's most intended to appeal to? How can you tell?

  • What ties Dennis and Rene together? Are they friends?

  • What do you think about Dennis' relationship with his wife and daughter? Why did his wife start seeing another guy?

Movie details

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For kids who love offbeat movies

Themes & Topics

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