Detachment Movie Poster Image




Mature drama is more introspective than inspirational.
  • Review Date: March 16, 2012
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

In the beginning, Detachment is about avoiding connections and responsibility, in a vain effort to sidestep the pain that sometimes accompanies them. But eventually it becomes clear that avoiding these things leads to detachment, while embracing connections can lead to fulfillment.

Positive role models

The main character is a substitute teacher who manages to get through to some of the most troubled and difficult students. He also makes a connection with a young prostitute, helping her off the street and giving her the positive attention she needs. He's generally helpful and considerate to others. Unfortunately, as a substitute, he tends to avoid lasting commitments, though he learns how to change this behavior after tragic events wake him up.


At the school, teachers and students often face off in tense verbal altercations, arguments, and confrontations. Students beat a cat to death inside a bag; the cat isn't shown, but a student has blood on his hands. A teen prostitute has bloody cuts and bruises all over her body. A teen girl commits suicide, and blood is seen. Teens fight briefly. In a flashback, a boy discovers his mother's dead body.


An elderly woman in a rest home is briefly shown fully naked (the scene isn't sexual). A teen prostitute tries to offer her favors to the main character (he refuses). There's a suggestion of her performing oral sex on another man, but very little is shown. A teacher chastises a female student for wearing revealing clothing (her nipples are mentioned). A character briefly looks through an adult magazine (some nudity is seen in the photographs therein).


Constant strong language, with multiple uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "bitch," "jackass," the "N" word, "bastard," "d--k," and "ass." "Gay," "queer," and "dyke" are used as insults. "Oh, God" is also heard (as an exclamation).

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A secondary character -- a teacher -- takes "happy pills" (some kind of prescription medication). Another secondary character dies of an overdose and is seen drinking. The main character smokes a cigarette in one scene and drinks a glass of wine with dinner in another. Verbal drug references.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Detachment is an intense drama about a substitute teacher in an inner city school. Some movies about teachers are inspirational, but this one is more introspective. It includes threats, arguing, and verbal confrontations, as well as some death and blood. Language is very harsh, strong and constant (including "f--k," the "N" word, and much more). There are sexual situations, including a storyline involving a teen prostitute and a quick shot of a naked elderly woman in a rest home. Secondary characters are shown to have drug problems. The material is dark, and the main character learns some hard lessons, but Detachment does end on a hopeful note. The movie could provide interesting discussions for mature teens.

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Mr. Barthes (Adrien Brody) works as a substitute teacher in tough New York City schools, willing to take on month-long assignments without getting tied down. Unlike some of his colleagues, his detachment allows him to deal with the cruel students -- and to connect with the good ones -- without ever getting personally involved. But things change when a teen prostitute, Erica (Sami Gayle), comes on to him. He takes her home to give her something to eat, and she ends up staying. Like everyone else in his life, Mr. Barthes tries to cut Erica loose, but when one of his students tries to commit suicide, he finds that he's really missing something important in his life.

Is it any good?


Tony Kaye, the controversial director of American History X, returns to filmmaking with DETACHMENT, an emotionally powerful, enlightening drama. Brody plays a distant, closed-off character, but he relies on his natural charisma to draw focus to himself. He carries his pain just below the surface, locked away but still present. He's mesmerizing, especially when facing some kind of conflict. 

The other characters -- played by an impressive cast including James Caan, Lucy Liu, Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, and Tim Blake Nelson -- help to provide perspective as harried, frenzied, damaged, deluded souls. The movie throws in some strange, occasional blackboard animation and amber-colored flashbacks to help set the mood. The story's events may line up a little too neatly to test Brody's character on cue, but the emotional responses are truthful, and the movie's satisfying ending is earned.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays teachers and schools. Does it seem realistic or exaggerated? Teens: Do you think about your teachers' lives outside the classroom? Do you think any of them feel the way that Mr. Barthes does?

  • Is Mr. Barthes a role model? What does he do right, and what could he have done better?

  • Why does Meredith want to commit suicide? What other choices could she have made to improve her situation? How could Mr. Barthes have helped?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 16, 2012
DVD release date:September 18, 2012
Cast:Adrien Brody, Christina Hendricks, Marcia Gay Harden
Director:Tony Kaye
Studio:Tribeca Productions
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Detachment was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written bywonder dove September 25, 2013

This is reality...

Detachment was not bad at all, after reading some great online reviews I gave it a shot and liked it, however, it's much different than anything I've seen. The setting, atmosphere of the film, storyline...etc. It deals with a lot of emotional issues and problems people go through on a daily basis, it's strong and disturbing. One man, Mr. Barthes (Adrien Brody), is a good down to earth kind of guy who helps to change people's lives while working as a substitute teacher in New York. He meets a variety of people who all seem to take to him, allowing him to nudge himself into their daily problems and help make the best of it. But he doesn't always make the wisest decisions when one of his students commits suicide right in front of him, his feelings about everything changes. It's really a good look at some of life's issues and what people go through even when they keep it a secret. It's depressing throughout most of the film but there is a little light at the end of the tunnel. Great acting and awesome cast! Language is very strong and frequent mostly by teens. Violence includes a disturbing act of male students beating a cat inside of a bag with blood shown, a graphic and gory suicide, loud arguments and cruel remarks about others, a woman appears to have cuts and bruises on her body (references to rape), references to death, teens fight. Sexual content includes a porn mag looked at by a male senior with nudity but ends quick, a teen prostitute hassles a man - she's later shown going down on a guy (you hear him moan but no nudity), a senior lady is shown fully naked sitting down, a woman wears skimpy clothing, a woman gets the wrong impression when she walks in on a teacher hugging one of his crying students. There is prescription drug use and alcohol, also a scene of smoking. Not suitable for younger teens, 16 and up is fair.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Family Media Agreement