Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Birthmarked Movie Poster Image
Uneven comedy has strong language, sexuality.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 90 minutes

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie is all about manipulation in the name of science, but everyone comes out OK ... sort of. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main-character scientists aren't very likable. But their kids persevere and become who they're supposed to be.


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.


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. 


Wide range of profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "bitch," "a--hole," etc. Some instances spoken by kids.

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byCharll July 8, 2018


I thought it was awful and I am 13 it was so dodge there was loads of naked women pictures and references to masturbation unless you find that funny don’t watch... Continue reading

What's the story?

In BIRTHMARKED, married social scientists Ben (Matthew Goode) and Catherine (Toni Collette) raise their kids under experimental conditions to prove the superiority of nurture over nature. They set out to condition their biological son, Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman), and adopted kids Luke (Jordan Poole) and Maya (Megan O'Kelly) against what they consider to be the kids' genetic predispositions. But they don't tell the kids why they're being raised this way. The whole family lives in seclusion, with only a Russian lab assistant/manny/uncle (Andreas Apergis) for additional company. Under pressure from their benefactor (Michael Smiley) to produce results, the scientists feel the strain -- their marriage suffers, and the kids become unhappy.

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. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how parents are portrayed in movies about raising kids. When they come across as overbearing, are the results usually positive or negative? How realistic did you find the portrayal of parenthood in Birthmarked?

  • What do you think of the experiment/plan? Is the parents' deception justified? 

  • Do you consider this a comedy or a drama? Why? Was it effective as either or both?

  • How are sex and drinking portrayed in the movie? What message does that send?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love offbeat comedy

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