DNA

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
DNA Movie Poster Image
Mature family drama has strong language, drinking.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Families members can be difficult.

Positive Role Models

Neige is a self absorbed, maladjusted woman who blames others for her situation. Her mother is a harsh and unrelenting parent who professes love but offers criticism.

Violence

An aging Alzheimer patient in a nursing home dies a peaceful death onscreen. Family members argue angrily over everything. A character visits a French memorial to Algerians killed during a peaceful protest in 1961. A man is held down by three people so his saliva can be tested for DNA. A character stops eating.

Sex
Language

"F--k," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "bastard," "pee," "piss," "crap," "balls," and "penis."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes and marijuana, and drink alcohol, sometimes to excess.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that DNA is a French drama depicting a large, feisty, and contentious French family with Algerian roots. The main character, a floundering single mom, begins to fall apart when her grandfather dies in a nursing home, leaving the family ties threatened and members at odds. In French with English subtitles. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "bastard," "pee," "piss," "crap," "balls," and "penis." Adults smoke cigarettes. Some smoke marijuana. Others drink alcohol to excess. A character stops eating. A man is held down by three people so his saliva can be tested for DNA.

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What's the story?

Neige (Maiwenn, also director and co-writer) is bereft when her beloved grandfather dies. An Algerian who left his country for France at age 22, he's remembered by daughters, grandchildren, and great grandchildren as the glue that held a boisterous and contentious family together. Those left behind are grieving, self absorbed, and also at each other's throats over everything from the coffin selection to who speaks at the funeral. Neige emerges as the story's center but enigmatically stops eating, drinks too much, spits unexplained insults at her mother (played by Fanny Ardant), signs up with a genetics website to learn just what percent Algerian she is, and reads up on Algerian history. Will embracing her heritage save her?

Is it any good?

You could call DNA a meditation on heritage and a woman's longing to connect to her roots. But there's nothing meditative about this jumble of long-festering family anger and chaos. The movie never bothers to tell us anything about the main character, nothing that could help us connect her seemingly passionate longings to the reality of the life she's lived. The camera spends a lot of time on actors arguing and yelling, conflicts seemingly based on ancient interpersonal grievances about which we are told nothing. Neige has a love-hate relationship with a mother who is as cruel and difficult as Neige herself. The filmmaker mentions but doesn’t explore. She doesn't answer the questions she raises -- including an unexplored eating disorder, a penchant for over-consumption of alcohol, and the seeming abandonment of her young children as they disappear from the partly autobiographical story of a self involved woman.

Why does she need to know what percent of her genes are "Algerian," as if genes were, in fact, nationality-based? What moves her to violently attack her father to retrieve his saliva for further testing? She might have her reasons for this, but doesn't share them, making her seem even less likable and more self absorbed than before. This film aims to take us on a journey, but it starts from nowhere that we can grasp, goes nowhere we can recognize, and explains nothing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the film depicts family conflict. Do the family members here bend or compromise to make others feel comfortable? How could they have handled their conflicts better?

  • Since we don't choose our family members, do you think it's important to find ways to get along with even relatives who cause friction? Why?

  • What does this movie say about the value of family?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family tales

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