Nuanced, mature character study about unlikely friendship.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Bull is an independent drama about the unlikely friendship between a working-class 14-year-old girl (Amber Havard) whose mom is in jail and her bull-riding neighbor (Rob Morgan). Directed and co-written by Annie Silverstein, the movie deals with mature issues including class, race, substance use/abuse, and loneliness. Expect frequent strong language, including "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "bitch," and the "N" word. Teens, some as young as 14, drink beer and hard liquor, smoke pot, take prescription drugs, and even sell opioids for easy cash. Two teens engage in a sexual act, and two adults make love (partial nudity, moaning, etc.). With its serious themes and character study-based plotline, Bull is the kind of movie that will appeal more to adults and older teens than to younger viewers.
Not appropriate for families, definitely NOT for kids or teens.
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What's the Story?
BULL takes place in a working-class suburb of Houston, where 14-year-old Kristal (Amber Havard) lives with her overburdened grandmother and little sister while her mother serves a prison sentence. Kris tries to impress her friends by inviting them to party at her "uncle's" house. In reality, it belongs to her neighbor, Abe (Rob Morgan), an aging rodeo cowboy. When Abe comes home to a trashed house, he calls the cops on Kris but ultimately agrees to let her work off the damage. Kris starts attending rodeos with Abe, whose injuries and age have relegated him to wrangler and even rodeo clown status. Despite his curmudgeonly attitude, Abe is willing to teach Kris about rodeo work, but their mentor-mentee friendship is tested when Kris falls in with young criminals.
Is It Any Good?
Director Annie Silverstein's well-acted, intimate drama explores an intergenerational friendship between two lonely people on the fringes of American society. Not a whole lot happens in Bull, but there's definitely a lot to unpack in what does. The film delves into everything from the impact of having an incarcerated parent to the opioid crisis to the casual racism of poor Whites to a peek inside the subculture of Black rodeos. Both central characters are flawed and make iffy decisions (Kris in particular), but there's an inherent realism to their actions that's borne of despair, loss, and loneliness. Silverstein (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Johnny McAllister) commendably navigates the characters' sadness without exploiting it.
Newcomer Havard is noticeably good as a disillusioned girl who misses her jailed mother terribly and obviously wants an adult to care for her like she sees her grandmother care for her little sister. And Morgan, who's consistently impressive in all of his roles, doesn't disappoint as a rodeo cowboy who's past his prime and bearing the chronic pain of his profession. Their relationship is uneasy and uncomfortable at first, but it soon becomes an unconventional mentor/mentee dynamic. Kris knows how to inject a needle and make a hangover cure; Abe has a low tolerance for Kris' mistakes but continues to forgive her. Despite their differences, they find a sense of kinship and community that they both need.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the underage substance use in Bull. Are there consequences for the drug and alcohol use? Why is that important?
How is Abe a role model and mentor to Kris? Do you have to be perfect to be a role model?
What character strengths do the main characters display? How does their friendship benefit each of them?
How are race and age addressed in the movie? Why does it matter?
- On DVD or streaming: May 1, 2020
- Cast: Rob Morgan, Amber Havard, Yolonda Ross
- Director: Annie Silverstein
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 25, 2023
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