Changing Lanes



Emotionally violent thriller for mature teens.
  • Review Date: April 27, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

What parents need to know


Car crashes (one intentional), realistic fistfights, scenes of family conflict


Reference to infidelity


Strong language, plus plenty of racist comments.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Character is a recovering alcoholic

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film involves a lot of realistic emotional violence which can be upsetting. A family is separated by the alcoholism of a parent, and there is an extremely harrowing scene of a father being forcibly removed from his son's school. There is also a later confrontation between the father and mother where the father is told he'll never see the children again. The physical violence in the film is brief and mild by modern standards, but realistic. There are religious references (the movie takes place on Good Friday) that some families will find awkward or heavy-handed.

What's the story?

Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is a successful Manhattan attorney involved in a bitter contest over the control of a charitable foundation. On his way to court, he literally runs into Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson), who is on his way to court to fight his ex-wife from moving away with their children. Gavin, in a hurry, tries to pay the damages up front with a blank check. Doyle, wanting to straighten out his life, wants to swap insurance numbers. Haste and anxiety boil over into anger, and the confrontation leaves Doyle stranded without a ride. Gavin reaches court in time but without a crucial document, left at the scene of the accident with Doyle. Events quickly escalate out of control. Without the document, Gavin and his legal partners (one his father-in-law), are vulnerable to charges of fraud; Doyle, because of the accident, arrives late to family court and loses visitation rights with his children. The men confront each other again, but Doyle is too angry about losing his case to give Gavin the file. Gavin lies to the partners about the file to buy time. Each blames the other for his troubles and wants revenge. What follows is a battle of wits, with each character striking at the other with all of his available resources, culminating in a second highway crash.

Is it any good?


Most thrillers have audiences asking themselves what the characters will do next. CHANGING LANES will have them asking themselves what they might do in this situation, because it is a movie about how close all of us are to abandoning the thin veneer of civilization and breaking all the rules to lash out at each other. This is a harsh thriller about two men whose moral bearings are dislodged by a cataclysmic accident. Both Gavin and Doyle are appealing, seemingly decent characters. But Gavin lacks the maturity to take full responsibility for his actions, while Doyle's rage -- an even more profound addition than his alcoholism -- overwhelms his good sense.

They both hover at the point of forgiveness, but neither is willing to let go of their self-righteous indignation and make mature choices. The characters along the way each present them with choices, each representing a world view that Gavin and Doyle must adopt or reject. Sidney Pollack (best known as a director) is outstanding as Gavin's corrupt boss and there are other strong supporting performances by Toni Collette, William Hurt, and Amanda Peet.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the characters' conflicting impulses to forgive and to get revenge. What finally convinces Doyle to give the file back? What did his friend mean when he told Doyle "Alcohol was never really your drug of choice?" Why was Gavin unwilling to go to Texas to do his pro-bono work, and what do you make of his final speech to his father-in law? In a way, this is a movie about the way people do and don't listen to each other and how that makes us feel. Where do we see that theme most clearly? Why was Gavin able to ignore the reality of his situation? Was the end of the film realistic? Parents will want to discuss safe driving habits with their teens after seeing this film as well.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 12, 2002
DVD release date:September 10, 2002
Cast:Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Sydney Pollack
Director:Roger Michell
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:99 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

This review of Changing Lanes was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008
Teen, 15 years old Written byariel278 September 15, 2015

Shouldn't have been rated R

Honestly I don't think there is that much violence or sexual things. There was a little language and maybe that was why it was rated R but I watched this when I was 14 and I was surprised to see it was rated R it seemed like at the most a PG-13 rating. I watched this in my religion class because we were doing a right and wrong thing or something and if it was appropriate enough to show in school than even if it is R it's not bad at all.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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