Brittany Runs a Marathon

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Brittany Runs a Marathon Movie Poster Image
Woman makes over her life in heartfelt but mature dramedy.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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

Positive Messages

Strong themes of courage, perseverance, and self-control are demonstrated in the way Brittany begins running and eventually improves to the point in which she enters a marathon. She improves realistically -- slowly, with great effort, and over a period of time. Though the movie clearly depicts fat-shaming as wrong, there's some insulting language directed at people with larger body types (one woman is called a "fat girl" dismissively, and another is told that her husband can't possibly love her at her size, etc.), and the storyline does buy into the idea that a healthy athlete is a slimmer one.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Brittany is a realistically flawed person who doesn't always make the "right" choices but changes her situation through grit and determination and transforms her personal relationships through greater empathy and caring. All of the characters are kind-hearted and relatable -- they sometimes make mistakes, but they own up to them and try to atone. Characters change and grow over the course of the movie. The cast is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and body type.


Some cruel/insulting words.


Characters have sex in bed with moaning and thrusting; no nudity, but in one scene a man fiddles with a condom before returning to bed and having sex under the covers. A woman cries after sex and receives realistic reassurance that her partner cares about her feelings. A man asks a woman to go to the bathroom with him at a club and hands her napkins to cushion her knees, implying that he expects oral sex. 


Frequent use of words including "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "goddamn," and "bulls--t," "hell," "damn," "oh my God," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). Expect words for body parts, too: "t-ts," "boner," "c--k," "d--k." Some insulting language directed at people with larger body types.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many scenes depict binge drinking/drinking to excess, clearly intended to suggest unhappy/frayed lives. Brittany gulps down liquor at a club, takes unnamed prescription pills (then throws up in a toilet), and vapes something. Two characters smoke pot in a bonding scene (recreational marijuana is currently decriminalized in New York, where this movie is set). One character is an ex-IV drug user, who talks about her old habit. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Brittany Runs a Marathon is a heartfelt dramedy about a woman (Jillian Bell) who changes her life when she starts running regularly. The movie maintains an uplifting tone despite many uncomfortable scenes in which people treat each other badly. Characters change slowly over the course of the movie and learn how to be kinder to others and to themselves, but before they get there, they demonstrate some iffy behavior. Brittany and her friend/roommate use substances irresponsibly: they take unnamed prescription pills, use something in a vape pen, and binge drink. Brittany also smokes pot (marijuana is decriminalized in New York, where the movie is set). Sexual content includes a scene in which a man asks for (and, the movie implies, receives) oral sex from Brittany at a dance club and another in which characters who've gotten to know and respect each other have what looks to be mutually pleasurable sex with moaning and movements (no nudity). Several uncomfortable scenes involve fat-shaming, though the movie depicts this practice as wrong; the movie can also be seen as supporting the idea that "real" runners are slim/lean. Language is frequent but generally used in the context of humor: "f--k," "bitch," "a--hole," "goddamn," "bulls--t," etc. A diverse cast inhabits relatable characters, who make mistakes but then try (and succeed!) at doing better. Themes include courage, perserverance, and self-control.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySadie B. February 22, 2021
Adult Written byemailpriyamenon February 22, 2021

How wanting to run a marathon helps gets someone get their act together

Good movie for some motivation. Brittany is a lifelong food addict and leads a lifestyle where she doesn't hold herself up to very high standards. This mov... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byHello_57286 February 28, 2021

Positive message

This movie has an amazing message about never giving up and stucking with who really cares about you. It does have one sex scene and one does imply but doesn... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byClaytonD July 15, 2020

Great cinematography and storytelling. Too much language

If you’ve taught your kids well and they know not to repeat the events of a movie, then this is a great movie for AT THE LEAST 14 year olds. Would’ve been bette... Continue reading

What's the story?

We meet the hero of BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON (Jillian Bell) at a low point. She's dissatisfied with her job, doesn't have many friends, has no romantic prospects on the horizon, and basically covers up her crushing loneliness with self-deprecating humor. Then a visit to a doctor in hopes of scoring prescription Adderall goes south when he tells her she's in trouble healthwise. Brittany fears it's too late to stop her life from sliding into the toilet. But she's not quite ready to throw in the towel, so she gives running a try. At first she can barely make it to the end of her block. But as time passes and she keeps at it, she finds her stride -- in more ways than she dared hope for. 

Is it any good?

Audiences who've seen a few female-focused "nottie to hottie" movies could be forgiven for thinking this gorgeous, affecting movie might be similarly shallow and misogynistic -- but they'd be wrong. Brittany is a delight from the moment she shows up on screen, with every one of her mercurial emotions visible on her face as we watch her navigating her not-good-enough life: the nothing job she doesn't work hard at, her toxic relationship with her best friend, the men who don't notice her unless they want something from her. In an early scene, Brittany finally gets some attention from a foxy guy at a club who slurs "You're fine" before asking her to join him in the bathroom and offering her a stack of bar napkins: "You can rest your knees on these," he says. 

But soon enough, she's lacing up her sneakers and heading out, determined to make at least some changes in her life. Mild spoiler alert: It works. But while having a woman beat a path to betterness through outward physical transformation is truly a cinematic cliche -- witness the many makeovers in movies from Cinderella to Grease to Now, Voyager -- in Brittany's case, it feels both more authentic and deeper. Her physical changes aren't the be-all and end-all of her story. Instead, her metamorphosis comes more from committing to something and finding that she has the inner strength to stick with it than from looking conventionally cuter. And her most lasting changes come not from a smaller dress size but instead from the changed relationships she has with her family and friends. In short, this is no mere makeover movie. It's nothing less than a hero's journey, with a hero you'll want to cheer on. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies that involve a transformation. What movies can you think of in which a character changes their life? Is it always a physical transformation? Are characters who experience this type of transformation more often male or female, in your experience? What form do female transformations usually take in the movies? 

  • How does Brittany Runs a Marathon tell viewers what shape Brittany's life is in at the beginning of the movie vs. the end? What changes over the course of the movie, and how do we find out about it? What techniques do movies use to convey changes to a person's outlook or character? 

  • How does Brittany demonstrate courage, perseverance, and self-control? Why are these important character strengths?

  • How does the movie depict substance use/abuse? Is it glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?

  • Brittany's physical appearance changes as she gets into running; what does this suggest about body size, health, and athleticism? Is that an accurate message?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strong female characters

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