A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie sends the very important message for teens that you see online may not be what you get ... and that connections that can initially seem strong may not be after all, especially when they're cultivated in the greenhouse known as the Internet. Basically, the movie asks the question: Who are you on the Web? And who are the people you talk to there, really?
Positive Role Models
The people who behave badly in the movie end up sympathetic and, in an odd way, noble, given their circumstances. And viewers see that it's human to make mistakes and honorable to own up to them.
Violence & Scariness
Some menacing, creepy moments, but nothing violent actually happens.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One of the lead subjects reads some steamy text messages aloud.
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Infrequent use of "s--t," "crap," "pissy," and "oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
The Apple logo is often visible on the laptop the filmmakers are using; the logo for Ray-Ban is also often seen. The iPhone makes frequent appearances. Many scenes show the characters visiting social networking sites like YouTube and especially Facebook. JCPenney is mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some discussion of a subject being an alcoholic and checking into rehab.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this documentary chronicles the friendships that develop between an 8-year-old painter and her Michigan family and the New York City photographer they befriend online. The movie delves into many of the issues intrinsic in Web communities like Facebook: the personas that people present (and how accurate -- or not -- they are), how relationships develop quickly, and how those friendships don't always have the same safety nets that real-life associations do. All of these issues are exceptionally relevant for today's parents and teens, so we recommend watching it together. Anticipate a little swearing, a few steamy text messages (read aloud), and some twists that may prove too heavy for tweens and younger. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It's hard to discuss the potency of CATFISH without spoiling it, but suffice it to say that the film succeeds in illustrating the perils of online relationships without vilifying anyone. (Even those who, under other circumstances, might shoulder much of the blame.) Despite the movie's frequently grainy, shaky, and off-kilter footage, it manages to move forward with such momentum that we have no other choice but to ride along. And it perfectly captures what it's like to live and love and learn online.
Yes, some viewers may suspect they know what's around the bend within the first 20 minutes. And it's true that the filmmakers, who are also characters in the documentary, at times come off as glib with their banter. But the way the movie twists -- and it may not be the twist you expect -- reveals so much about human nature and how compassion and wisdom lurk in places that you don't always look. As one character explains when discussing why catfish is kept in the same vats as cod during transit, the catfish keep the cod agile. But just who is the catfish here, and who is the cod?
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.