By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Mature drama is more introspective than inspirational.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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).
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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).
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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.
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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.
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Where to Watch
Based on 2 parent reviews
Ten and up
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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.
Talk to Your Kids 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?
- In theaters: March 16, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: September 18, 2012
- Cast: Adrien Brody, Christina Hendricks, Marcia Gay Harden
- Director: Tony Kaye
- Studio: Tribeca Productions
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 23, 2023
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