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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch Movie Poster Image
Inventive interactive movie has violence, drugs, language.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 90 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Speculates that people may have little or no control over their individual destinies (the concept of free will). Also, suggests that t's important to address significant issues, such as guilt and grief. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is hardworking, resourceful, and determined; he's also fragile, obsessive, and guilt-ridden. Few female characters; one is a competent therapist. Limited ethnic diversity.

Violence

Violent scenes include a bloody murder, the gruesome disposal of a body, and jumps from a tall building; these sequences may be repeated, depending on the viewer's choices. Long sequence in which a young man fights fiercely with a woman, who holds her own. Several scary monsters make brief appearances. A psychedelic episode has some violent images. A young boy misses/mourns his mother, who dies in an accident (off screen).

Sex
Language

Frequent profanity, including "f--k," "s--t," "balls," and "hell."

Consumerism

W.H. Smith bookstore, brief Frosted Flakes ad, promotion for Netflix itself.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters take hallucinogenic drugs, leading to mind-bending perceptions, behavior, and grotesque images. Marijuana is used. Main character uses prescribed anti-depressants. Characters smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a stand-alone movie that's part of the British Black Mirror TV franchise, which takes a dark, often satirical look at cultural and social behavior. Set in 1984, Bandersnatch takes the series in a new direction thanks to its interactive, game-like elements; in certain scenes, viewers with compatible devices will be asked to choose one of two options, and the story will continue (or end) based on that choice. As the story progresses, most options will lead to some violent scenes (spoiler alert: there's a bloody murder, a brutal fight, the gruesome disposal of a body, and death via suicide). In flashback, a child misses/mourns his mother, who dies in an accident off screen. Characters also use marijuana, take psychedelic drugs, and smoke cigarettes; they also swear a lot, using words including "f--k," "s--t," and "hell." At the heart of the movie are provocative themes about the nature of reality, time, and the concept of free will. Note: At the time of this review, the movie's interactive component was not supported on all devices (i.e., Chromecast, Apple TV).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byNan’s Spaghet January 1, 2019

Not too bad

Whilst I don’t think it should be PG-13 like some other people said, I don’t think that it’s too bad. There is an option to cut up the main character’s father b... Continue reading
Adult Written byLovelyDisaster December 31, 2018

Pretty Good!

I truly believe this show deserved a PG-13 rating, there wasn’t anything too explicit. The only thing that made it not suitable for under 10, was one scene of d... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old December 31, 2018

Odd, intriguing sci-fi drama is dark, confusing and twisted.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a very odd, unique movie experience that follows a teen boy named Stefan who begins working for a major video game producer, who h... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMr. Horror January 8, 2019

Umm.. ok.

This is Netflix’s first pick your own adventure live action movie and it’s alright. I had fun with it. Now no matter what route you pick you will get an F word... Continue reading

What's the story?

In BLACK MIRROR: BANDERSNATCH, it's 1984, and Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) is a creative, ambitious video game designer. Obsessed with Bandersnatch, a book written by an author who has a bizarre history, Stefan is working on a game based on the book. He's overjoyed when a pitch meeting at a notable gaming company -- which includes designer Colin Ritman (Will Poulter), Stefan's idol -- has a positive outcome: The company wants his game. Faced with a challenging deadline, Stefan immerses himself in his work. But Peter (Craig Parkinson), Stefan's dad, is worried. The young man is still trying to cope with his mother's tragic death years earlier; he's taking anti-depressants and seeing a therapist. So Peter is afraid that his son's frenetic schedule will be harmful. As the conflict between the two men escalates, Stefan begins to feel strangely manipulated by an unseen presence he thinks may be controlling his behavior -- specifically, his choices. It's a combination of forces that just may send Stefan over the edge. 

Is it any good?

Clever, surprising, and a crash course in the concept of "free will," this movie forces its viewers to impact the story, just as it forces its central player to go along with those demands. Strikingly well done, especially for a first foray into complex audience involvement, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch sets a high bar for similarly styled films that will inevitably follow. It's intriguingly set in the early stages of video game development, so that Stefan's machinations feel just primitive enough to clash with new technology and heighten the action, as well as his emotional journey.

And, as experimental as it must have been for director David Slade to make this film, it's just as experimental for viewers. Happily, going back and forth between first choices and second ones, guided by the filmmakers when "least best" choices are made, can deliver lots of nuance, along with its a host of divergent paths. Still, the movie's plot, characters, and thematic messages remain the same, no matter how meandering the journey. All in all, this is a first-rate addition to the Black Mirror franchise. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the interactive elements of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Did you experiment with your choices? Go back and forth to see what you'd missed? How many scenes do you think you watched twice? What was most (or least) satisfying about this way of watching a movie?

  • Think about the movie's violence. If you saw some of the violent scenes more than once, how did your reaction to those scenes change? If the violence shocked you the first time, did that change when it was repeated? Why is it important to understand the impact that violent media has on kids?

  • Do you think this movie would work without audience participation? Why or why not? What is the resulting message about the idea of free will?

  • Do you think technology enhances people's lives? Can you think of examples where it seems to have gone too far in real life?

Movie details

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