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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is all about manipulation in the name of science, but everyone comes out OK ... sort of.
Positive Role Models
Main-character scientists aren't very likable. But their kids persevere and become who they're supposed to be.
Violence & Scariness
Kids hit each other with an oar so hard that it breaks. A man hits another in the head with a shovel. Two people are hit by a car that's driven by kids. Somewhat problematic because it's not clear whether these incidents are supposed to be realistic or slapstick.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Topless woman shown briefly. Female nudity in vintage erotica photos (topless/bottomless from behind). Kids' early dramatic effort includes inappropriate sexualization of children (including language from Penthouse Forum). The scientists' sexual habits could be considered kinky and are played for laughs. References to masturbation and genitalia.
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Wide range of profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "bitch," "a--hole," etc. Some instances spoken by kids.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The mother drinks wine frequently; the kids get used to seeing her drunk. At one point, she passes out. One character smokes a lot.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Birthmarked is a quirky, mature comedy about scientists who turn raising their children into a grand science experiment -- without telling them. Expect lots of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more) and scenes in which kids are sexualized inappropriately. Adult characters' unconventional sexuality is played for laughs, and partial nudity includes bare breasts and bottoms. Some violent moments (people are hit by a car, one person hits another in the face with a shovel, etc.) are potentially iffy because it's hard to tell whether they're meant to be realistic or slapstick. One character drinks a lot of wine and is often drunk; another smokes. Toni Collette and Matthew Goode co-star. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Just like the kids at the center of its story, this film feels shoehorned into being something it really isn't; it's like a philosophical drama about traumatized children crammed into a clown car. The goofy music, slapsticky moments, and certain situations and performances have the trappings of broad comedy. But much of what happens isn't funny in the least, and the dialogue doesn't make up for the humor gap. There's no shortage of memorable films about idiosyncratic upbringings, with 2016's Captain Fantastic being perhaps the best recent example. But Birthmarked doesn't share the same heartfelt foundation as that Viggo Mortensen charmer. Ben and Catherine don't labor from a place of love but rather from one of detached scientific curiosity. Their experiment feels more like the personality engineering of Divergent than the quirky family portrait of The Royal Tenenbaums. It's hard to have sympathy for them when they suddenly care whether their kids are taken from them. And then there's the fact that we know so little about the kids that, beyond the basic concern for their well-being, we have little invested in them, either.
Even the movie's central argument is given short shrift. The shallow thesis that nurture is superior to nature isn't particularly explored. We don't see the kids struggling mightily with the conditioning, just being squirrelly, as any kids might be. The pacing feels slow, emotions unearned. There are a few amusing bits -- such as the boy conditioned to grow up an artist being forced to sing the blues when he's upset, or the desperately lonely and horny Russian lab assistant/manny suffering when the scientists send away a rare female visitor. But those moments are few and far between in this misbegotten comedy.
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.