A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Blame is an indie teen drama written and directed by 22-year-old Quinn Shephard, who also stars as a troubled high schooler who gets inappropriately close to her drama teacher. The movie not only deals with teacher-student relationships but also bullying, substance use, domestic abuse, promiscuity, and mental illness. The language is frequently strong ("c--t," "f--k," "bitch," "s--t," etc.), and there are several scenes of underage drinking, drug use, risky social media use, and sex (between both adult couples and teen couples), as well as a disturbing kiss between a teacher and student and a love scene in which a teacher pictures his student instead of his girlfriend. In one scene, two girls push and slap each other; in another, a girl reveals a history of abuse. The movie should spark frank conversations about everything from consent and substance use to asking for help and exposing abuse.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
BLAME follows two high school girls: Abigail (Quinn Shephard), who's returning to school after an unexplained incident the previous year, and Melissa (Nadia Alexander), a queen-bee mean girl with a messy home life. Abigail, whose nickname is "psycho Sybil" because of her reputation for switching personalities, ends up in the same drama class as Melissa. When Jeremy (Chris Messina), an attractive substitute teacher, takes over the drama class, he assigns the girls scenes from Arthur Miller's The Crucible and casts Abigail as Abigail -- the young Puritan who accuses others of witchcraft -- and Melissa as her understudy. As Abigail's connection with Jeremy verges on inappropriate levels of closeness, Melissa's jealousy will stop at nothing to sabotage Abigail -- even if it means concocting lies about her own relationship with Jeremy.
Is it any good?
This is an authentic debut from a young female filmmaker who clearly understands the compelling nature of adolescent angst and instability. Shephard does a fine job playing fragile Abigail, who immerses herself in whatever fictional character she's currently into -- in this case, The Crucible's vindictive, lying Abigail Williams, who's obsessed with John Proctor (or, in real life, her drama teacher). Abigail and Jeremy's taboo attraction is obviously cringe-worthy, but it's Melissa's story that will ultimately horrify parents and resonate with teens.
Melissa's narrative is reminiscent of Catherine Hardwicke's film Thirteen (with even less parental involvement or support). It's heartbreaking and utterly realistic. Melissa is not a likable character, but Alexander should be commended for her humanizing performance. It's easy to want Melissa to get her well-earned comeuppance, but her situation is more complicated than that. Yes, she's flawed and hateful, but there's a reason for her misplaced anger and jealousy. By the end, she manages to elicit compassion from viewers, even if no one would want her (and all her drama) in their (or worse, their child's) life. That lingering gaze between the two girls in Blame's final scene is a powerful reminder that without barriers, without cruelty, we all have more in common than we care to admit.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of angst-filled teen dramas. Why do you think that edgy high school movies like Blame are so compelling?
What is the movie trying to say about bullies? Do you agree that those who bully or ridicule others tend to have other issues going on?
Discuss the relationship between Jeremy and Abigail. What did you think of it? Did he do the right thing in the end?
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