Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Detachment Movie Poster Image
Mature drama is more introspective than inspirational.
  • NR
  • 2012
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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).

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMichelle_marnay October 5, 2020

Ten and up

There was a bit of sexualness but it wasn't as bad as what people are saying it was a positive movie and i wouldnt mind having my 10 year old daughter. Tho... Continue reading
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... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bycriticalcritic February 2, 2017

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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