A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Castle in the Ground is a drama about drug use and drug addiction. It's downbeat, but it manages to avoid some of the trappings of other movies of its kind, and the performances (by Alex Wolff, Imogen Poots, and others) are excellent. The main characters are users/addicts who take painkillers, Oxy, and heroin. There are sequences of preparing and taking drugs, and some characters are dealers. There's also a fair bit of violence, including guns and shooting, bashing with a hammer, being hit with a Taser gun, and arguing. Language is strong, with several uses of "f--k," plus "motherf----r," "s--t," and more. Two characters kiss, and it's indicated that a character is willing to trade sexual favors for drugs.
What's the story?
In CASTLE IN THE GROUND, it's 2012, and Henry (Alex Wolff) has dropped out of school to look after his sick mother, Rebecca (Neve Campbell). One day, while picking up her medication at the pharmacy, Henry meets Ana (Imogen Poots), an addict who lives across the hall. She claims to be recovering, but she can't get the help she needs. Later, Rebecca wakes in agony and demands a morphine patch that she's not supposed to mix with her other medication. Henry balks but eventually gives in to her request. She dies, and a distraught Henry cuts ties to his girlfriend and everything else. He begins taking the remainder of his mother's medication, finding that it helps ease his pain. He becomes more and more involved with Ana's volatile world of drug dealers and users; before long, things get dangerous.
Is it any good?
A downbeat depiction of the early days of the opioid epidemic, this drama doesn't offer much new in the story department, but the excellent, sustained performances make it very much worth seeing. Coasting through a grayish, low-key haze, Castle in the Ground strikes a good balance between soapy melodramas about drug use (Ben Is Back, Beautiful Boy, etc.) and hyper-extreme movies like Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream. It stays focused on character, rather than sensation. Without driving the point home, Henry blames himself for his mother's death, and he's a young man who's simply trying to manage his intense pain. (He also feels betrayed by his faith, as his regular praying to save his mother's life failed to yield results.)
Ana, on the other hand, has become a master manipulator, doing small favors for Henry, showing him kindness, and then quickly demanding favors in return. "She would sell your soul for something this big," says one character, his fingers indicating the size of a tablet. Henry and Ana perform a harrowing but moving dance of despair as they spiral around each other and downward. While only appearing in the first section, Campbell is likewise outstanding, trying to balance humor and bravery with her unbearable pain. The believable supporting characters and excellent production design -- in her apartment, Ana sits in a woven deck chair like it's a wretched throne -- help make Castle in the Ground feel all the more genuine.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Castle in the Ground depicts drug use and drug addiction. Does the movie glamorize drugs at all?
How is violence depicted here? Is it exciting or shocking? Why is violence seemingly connected to the world of drug use?
What else do you think Henry could have done to help deal with his pain and guilt after his mother's death?
What is the "opioid epidemic"? Why is the movie set in 2012?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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