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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Despite the devastating effects that war has on Sam and his family, his family remains supportive and loving. The movie explores how war and violence change soldiers and their ability to return to their lives as fathers and husbands.
Positive Role Models
Grace, Sam, and Tommy are all realistically flawed characters. Sam commits an unthinkable act in a life-and-death situation, but he does so because he'd die otherwise and wants to return to his family. Grace and Tommy, in a moment of grief, reconnect by kissing, but they realize their error and focus on Sam when he returns. On the definite plus side, all of the characters are devoted to their family.
Violence & Scariness
Quite a bit of violence, especially in the war scenes thattake place in Afghanistan. A helicopter crashes; two American soldiersare taken hostage, held starving and captive, andthen tortured. A man is shot in the head; a man is forced to killanother man or be killed himself; many men are shot at and killed, etc. In a moment of fury, a character destroys his kitchen and scares hisfamily. A man points a gun at himself and looks like he's about tocommit suicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple kisses passionately and is shown in bed after having had sex. They exchange a few more kisses and embraces. A widow kisses her brother-in-law once. A man discusses whether his brother "f--ked" his wife, and a young girl lies that her mother and uncle "have sex all the time."
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Frequent strong language: many uses of the words "f--k" and "s--t," as well as "damn," "hell," "a--hole," "goddamn," "ass," "oh my God," "dick," and more.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Tommy gets drunk on a several occasions, and his father is shown drinking liquor a few times. Tommy smokes cigarettes; in one scene, he and Grace share a joint.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this mature drama (which stars Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, and Jake Gyllenhaal) about how the horrors of war affect both a soldier and his grieving family has several disturbing scenes of war, torture, and even domestic disputes -- making it far too intense for tweens and even younger teens. The war sequences involve atrocities, near-suicide, and two startling killings that are chillingly realistic; strong language includes frequent use of words like "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and the like. Sexuality isn't too graphic, but there are a few passionate kisses and one shot of an obviously undressed, quilt-covered couple in bed. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Jim Sheridan is no stranger to intense family dramas -- the Irish filmmaker (In the Name of the Father, In America) seems like a natural choice to adapt Susanne Bier's affecting Brodre. At first, the three leads (especially Portman) all seem too much younger than their Danish counterparts, but with some obvious visual clues that Portman and Maguire's characters were high-school sweethearts, the characterizations start clicking into place, and each actor rises to the challenge. Portman is luminous as a grief-stricken young "widow," and Gyllenhaal is surprisingly believable as the edgier bad-boy brother trying to make amends. But it's Maguire who has to anchor the emotional intensity, capturing Sam's months of torture and then his return to civilization mostly with bulging eyes, set jaw, and an acidly dropped curse word.
To Americanize Bier's masterful original, screenwriter David Benioff makes Sam and Tommy's father (Sam Shepard) a Vietnam vet, lending even more credibility to the good-son/bad-son dynamic between the brothers. Portman's almost distracting loveliness is also taken into consideration, as it becomes the subject of small talk among Tommy's friends. There's more humor in this version as well, especially in a key scene in which Tommy and Grace bond over a joint and a U2 song. Overall, Sheridan's remake is beautifully acted and, unfortunately, quite timely. But everyone who sees it should, also watch Bier's subtle, harrowing original.
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.