A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chatroom is an English movie based on a play. It tells the story of five troubled teens who meet in an online chatroom. The movie fictitiously shows them sitting in a room together, although in "reality," they are at their computers. Teen suicide is an issue, and a few brief but disturbing examples are shown: a hanging, jumping from a window, and wrist-cutting. There are some other violent images, including yelling and an animated depiction of the Black Plague. Sex is referred to in graphic terms, though little is actually shown. Language is fairly strong, with a use of "f--k," several uses of "s--t," and uses of "bitch," "ass," etc. The word "bitch" is shown written on a car in what looks like dog poop. One of the teens takes medication ("Prolexia") for depression, and another teen is shown briefly with a glass of wine. The movie is not very deep, but it should plant some interesting seeds of discussion within thoughtful teen viewers.
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What's the story?
A troubled teen, William (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), decides to open an Internet chat room called "Chelsea Teens!" Though he doesn't really have an agenda, four other teens quickly join in. The movie depicts them together in an actual room, though it's only an imaginary representation. Eva (Imogen Poots) is a model who is teased by her coworkers. Jim (Matthew Beard) takes anti-depressants. Emily (Hannah Murray) is a goody-two-shoes. And Mo (Daniel Kaluuya) feels guilty about being attracted to his friend's 11-year-old sister. Eventually William begins encouraging his new "friends" to take risks and start trouble. When Jim considers suicide, William encourages him. But when the others find out, it becomes a race to save Jim's life.
Is it any good?
Based on a play by Irish writer Enda Walsh and directed by Hideo Nakata, the Japanese director of the original Ring movie (Ringu), CHATROOM looks like it might have been a good idea on paper. But as a movie it quickly falters. The scenes inside the room are brightly colored, more artificial looking than the rest, but the dialogue never sounds realistic; it doesn't replicate the feel of an online environment or of a connection between the users.
The "real-life" sequences are shown in muted, drab colors, but since the movie's 97 minutes are spread across five characters, none of them really comes to life. Their problems are not emotional or organic; they seem created for the story, simplistic and easily described. The movie can't find a connection between love and pain, or need and denial. It's more interested in being shocked by the characters' activities than understanding them. It's a shallow, disappointing effort.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violent images of teen suicide shown in the movie. How quick are they? How potent are they? How much or how little did the movie need to show to illustrate its point?
How does the movie suggest the concept of a sex chatroom? Again, how much and how little is actually shown? What kind of satisfaction would people find in an online environment, rather than a personal one?
What is the difference between chatting online and chatting in person? What are the dangers involved in each? What are the benefits?
Have you ever participated in a chatroom in real life? How was it different or similar to the experience in the movie?
Is bullying depicted in the movie? How? How is it responded to?
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