A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Before I Wake is a fantasy-horror movie about a grieving couple (Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane) who adopt a foster child, but then strange things -- such as ghosts and monsters -- start appearing. A child is in jeopardy, and a man fires a gun that was initially pointed at a child. In flashback, a child dies, possibly drowned in a bathtub. Ghosts and monsters attack, and there's some blood and other scary stuff. There's also a fight with a school bully. The young boy is caught with stimulants (i.e. pills and sodas) under his bed so he can stay awake. A woman gives him sleeping pills. Sex and language aren't issues. The movie has many interesting aspects, but it's just a little off, and it never quite rights itself.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BEFORE I WAKE, grieving parents Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) decide to take in a foster child after losing their biological son in a tragic accident. The boy, Cody (Jacob Tremblay), seems polite and sweet, although both he and Jessie are having trouble sleeping. Then, at night, as Cody dreams, Jessie and Mark start seeing butterflies in their living room. This is followed by manifestations of their departed son, Sean, who appears in the house and seems very real. Jessie tries to tell her grief therapy group about the visits, but her therapist insists it's only her imagination. Things take a turn for the worse when Cody begins seeing a monster, the Canker Man, and a social worker (Annabeth Gish) poses a threat to the new family's happiness. It's only when Jessie starts to investigate Cody's true past that things begin to add up.
Is it any good?
This long-delayed fantasy-horror movie comes from a very talented director, Mike Flanagan, and has some interesting aspects, but it gets off to an awkward, nonsensical start and barely recovers. Flanagan (Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Gerald's Game) ordinarily knows how to build a spooky, tense world, often within limited spaces. But in Before I Wake, nothing seems nailed down. The main couple's grief isn't dealt with -- she's in therapy, he isn't -- and it's unlikely that they'd be ready or allowed to adopt a foster child in real life.
This sour note hangs over the entire movie; not even the sweetness of fine child actor Tremblay (who has also starred in Room and Wonder) can lighten Before I Wake's unpleasant sense of fatalism. Essentially, Cody is in jeopardy, and no adult is in a position to help him, certainly not brooding Mark or the snap-judgment social worker. It's not until late in the movie, when Jessie swings into detective mode -- as opposed to parental mode -- that the movie's thriller aspect kicks in and things start clicking into place. On a technical level, the movie's CG effects are colorful but chintzy looking, although the "Canker Man" monster is actually pretty frightening.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? Is it more of a fantasy or a family drama? Why?
How is the school bully depicted? How is he handled? Are there other/better ways of handling bullies?
How does the movie view a child taking stimulants, such as soda, pills, and coffee? How does it view a child being given sleeping pills?
Does the central couple seem ready to adopt a foster child? What things should be considered before taking such a step? How does the movie depict adoption overall?
- On DVD or streaming: January 5, 2018
- Cast: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay
- Director: Mike Flanagan
- Studio: Relativity Media
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violent content and terror including disturbing images
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.