A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Film values persistence, courage, and teamwork, as well as parental guidance and commitment.
Positive Role Models
Parents are shown to be supportive, willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get results. Their earlier divorce doesn't stand in the way of making them fight together for their child. Medical professionals are seen as caring, competent, and proactive. Central character, though outgoing, optimistic, and talented at film's opening, has no opportunity to reflect positive traits; she is at the mercy of her illness. Ethnic diversity throughout.
Violence & Scariness
Several instances show heroine in the midst of violent seizures. Her illness causes volatile, out-of-control behavior: throwing things, upending furniture.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing. A girl wears a bikini. In one humorous scene a featured male character is nude, but a guitar covers his private parts.
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Occasional swearing: "s--t," "ass," "d--k," "hell."
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Products & Purchases
New York Post newspaper.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An occasional alcoholic beverage. No drunkenness. Drinking is discussed as a possible underlying cause of illness.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Brain on Fire is a movie based on Susannah Cahalan's same-named memoir. As a talented young reporter on the staff of the New York Post, Cahalan (Chloe Grace Moretz) begins exhibiting unusual behavior and experiencing strange physical symptoms. With no diagnosis apparent, she and her loved ones are left without hope of recovery ... until the arrival of a brilliant doctor who refuses to give up. Cahalan's behavior is volatile at times; she's out of control and subject to violent seizures. Swearing includes use of "s--t," "ass," " hell," and "d--k." A young couple kisses and embraces; it's implied that they've slept together. In one humorous scene, a young man is nude, his genitals covered by the guitar he plays. Both the memoir and the film were created in the hopes of educating the public about anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a rare autoimmune disorder. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Kudos to the real-life Susannah Cahalan and the creative team for bringing a little-known but harrowing medical condition to light, but the movie as a dramatic film simply doesn't stand up. A good portion of Brain on Fire is devoted to Susannah's behavior and growing anguish as her rare brain disorder takes hold. It really happened. But watching sequence after sequence of an assault on her mind by sounds, voices, and increasingly erratic behavior in the workplace and at home becomes repetitious, and even the chilling seizures lose their impact. Chloe Grace Moretz does the best she can with this grown-up role after a series of resounding successes as a child and teen actress. Supporting players are fine but are given little to play beyond the situation at hand. Still, if the final words that appear on screen are true, Cahalan's memoir has had a major impact on diagnoses of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, and that's a remarkable outcome.
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.