By S. Jhoanna Robledo,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Thoughtful, mature drama about how adults form identity.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Sometimes you have to reinvent yourself to figure out who you really are; that's not always an easy process, and it might be difficult for the people around you to accept the new you.
Positive Role Models
Alice's revelation about her history prompts Tom to question who he is and where he's going. Some of the things he realizes about himself are difficult for him to accept.
Violence & Scariness
Hostile comments at a party. An older woman slips and injures herself.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Quick kissing and mildly suggestive comments.
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Occasional swearing, including "s--t" and "f--k."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink wine at a birthday party and then go to a nightclub for dancing and shots.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Complete Unknown, which stars Rachel Weisz, focuses on the issue of identity: Who are you, and how can you change that if you want to be different? There are a lot of complex discussions, often accompanied by wine and stronger drinks, about complicated, mature themes. There's also occasional swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and some suggestive comments, as well as kissing. Things never get too iffy, but the movie's concepts and subject matter may be most interesting to adults and older teens.
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What's the Story?
In COMPLETE UNKNOWN, Tom (Michael Shannon) has an unexpected guest at his birthday party. His colleague's mysterious new friend, Alice (Rachel Weisz), also turns out to be Jenny, a former girlfriend of Tom's who disappeared without a trace 15 years earlier. Over the course of a long night, Alice/Jenny explains where she's been and why she left, prompting Tom to question some of his own choices -- less dramatic to be sure, but perhaps with just as much impact.
Is It Any Good?
Moody, melancholy, fascinating, and ultimately frustrating, this drama will resonate with viewers who recognize the appeal of escape and starting over, which is the central theme of the plot. But sadly, Complete Unknown doesn't quite fulfill its promise. It's weighed down by an overly complicated trajectory -- though, when the film is finally distilled to its essence in the second half, it rights itself once more. Ultimately, the clunky route arrives at a somewhat satisfying destination. But it almost hardly matters: Watching Weisz and Shannon share the screen is worth the price of admission.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Alice. Who is she, really? Why do you think she cycles through so many different identities? What is Complete Unknown saying about what "identity" means?
Can you think of other movies that address similar themes? How do they compare to this one?
How do you think you'd react if someone you hadn't seen in 15 years suddenly showed up and said they were someone else?
- In theaters: August 26, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: October 4, 2016
- Cast: Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates
- Director: Joshua Marston
- Studio: IFC
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some language
- Last updated: February 26, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
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