Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Dean Movie Poster Image
Man comes to terms with grief in touching, funny movie.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 87 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Dean literally runs away from his troubles, while his father has found healthy ways to deal with grief and is growing as a result. Ultimately, the movie celebrates the difficult decision of facing up to your troubles, talking about them, and dealing with them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dean is a good person who spends most of the movie being somewhat irresponsible. But he does learn valuable life lessons and makes the hard but correct choice in the end.


Brief fighting and slapping. The main character deals with grief over his mother's death. Pictures of guns.


Implied sex between two characters. Some kissing and sexual innuendo.


One use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," "d--k," "boobs," "on his jock," "idiot," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). Brief use of a gay slur ("homo").


Reference to Google.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief "smoking pot" gesture. Social drinking during a wedding.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dean is an indie coming-of-age dramedy about a young man (Demetri Martin) who's faced with life changes after his mother's death. It deals with grief and facing your problems, versus running away from them. It's the filmmaking debut of comedian, writer, and TV personality Martin, who's popular with teens. Expect some strong language, notably one use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," and more. There's a scene of implied sex, as well as some kissing and innuendo. There are also brief moments of fighting and slapping, a "smoking pot" gesture is shown, and characters drink socially at a wedding.

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What's the story?

In DEAN, the title character (Demetri Martin) is an illustrator in New York City who's dealing with the loss of his mother. His relationship with his fiancee goes south, and both a stint as a best man at a wedding and a job interview are disasters. At the same time, his father, Robert (Kevin Kline), is going through his own grieving process, which involves the sale of Dean's childhood home. Unable to handle this, Dean suddenly decides to go to Los Angeles and look up some old friends. At a party, he's instantly smitten by Nicky (Gillian Jacobs) and extends his trip to spend more time with her, but a series of mishaps changes his plans. Meanwhile, Robert has struck up a tentative new relationship with a real estate agent (Mary Steenburgen). Dean must decide whether or not he can face his new reality.

Is it any good?

Writer/actor/illustrator/stand-up comic Martin successfully adds "director" to his resume with this somewhat familiar but still funny and emotionally truthful dramedy. It helps that, rather than predictably making his character a stand-up comic, Martin instead uses his simple, bittersweet, and hilarious real-life illustrations to help widen the movie and give it a fresh, visual flourish. Dean uses these to find the character's inner life at crucial moments.

It's difficult to tell a story about a character who avoids things, but Martin's screenplay concocts enough bizarre, almost surreal sequences and offbeat ideas that the movie itself plunges forward, even when the hero is stuck. He also casts many expert actors to accompany him. Veterans Kline and Steenburgen are especially good (this is their third movie together after Life As a House and Last Vegas). But even the actors in the tiniest parts create all kinds of minute, magical interactions that are both hilarious and touching.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Dean depicts sex. How do the characters view sex? Do they talk about it? What does it mean to them? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Dean and his father are dealing with their grief in very different ways. How are they different? Is one any better than the other?

  • What other examples of death and grief did you notice in the movie? What are the various reactions? Are any of these not OK?

  • Have you ever run away from or avoided your troubles? How or why? Did it help?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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