Don't Tell a Soul

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Don't Tell a Soul Movie Poster Image
Taut, surprising thriller has strong violence, language.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 83 minutes

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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

The movie's main theme is a moral choice between getting away with a crime or saving someone's life; to the hero, the choice is obvious. Also, despite its dark edge and thriller plot, the movie has quite a bit to say about violence and bullying. It also talks about the direst consequences of cigarette smoking (lung cancer).

Positive Role Models & Representations

As the movie begins, 14-year-old Joey is about as decent as kids come, although he's often the victim of his older brother's bullying. As the story goes on, he gives in to some poor impulses, including seeking vengeance and thinking about abandoning his family. In fact, although all four characters have their likable sides, they're all capable of -- and commit -- acts of violence. But ultimately Joey's goodness comes through.

Violence

Guns and shooting, with characters getting shot and killed. Brutal fighting, punching, bloody face, slamming up against wall, choking, strangling, biting. Teen knocked unconscious. Activated fire extinguisher dropped on someone. Teen smacked in face with plastic video game controller. Falls into a deep hole; painful injuries. Plastic bag on head. Attacking with rake, hurling rake handle like a spear. One character urinates on another. A character is dying of lung cancer. Rampaging temper tantrum. Strong bullying throughout.

Sex

Pinup picture of topless woman hanging on a wall. A teen girl is said to "give head for $20."

Language

Extremely strong, frequent language includes "f--k," "s--t" (and "shiznit"), "a--hole," "p---y," "bitch/son of a bitch," "damn," "goddamn," and "balls," plus "Jesus" and "thank God."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen party with drinking and cigarette smoking. Teen smokes cigarettes in several scenes. Younger teen tries pot, coughs violently. Character dying of lung cancer from secondhand smoke. An unseen character died of lung cancer from smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Don't Tell a Soul is an emotional, sharply made thriller with elements of dark humor; it tackles violence and bullying. Violence can be intense, with guns and shooting, deaths, brutal fighting (punching, bloody face, slamming up against wall, choking, strangling, biting, hitting with blunt objects, a teen knocked unconscious, etc.), bullying, someone getting trapped in a deep hole, and more. Language is also extremely strong and frequent, with countless uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," "bitch," etc. A teen party features drinking and cigarette smoking, a teen character regularly smokes cigarettes, and a younger teen tries pot (and coughs violently). A character is dying of lung cancer from secondhand smoke. While there's not too much sexual content, a teen girl is said to perform sexual favors for money, and a pinup picture of a topless woman is seen on a wall. Jack Dylan GrazerFionn Whitehead, and Rainn Wilson co-star.

User Reviews

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There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 17 years old Written byBrandon1243 January 18, 2021

Amazing Movie

Such a great movie that i will be watching again. it had so many great plot twists and turns that kept everyone on the edge of their seat! When you laugh and cr... Continue reading

What's the story?

In DON'T TELL A SOUL, 14-year-old Joey (Jack Dylan Grazer) lives with his bullying older brother, Matt (Fionn Whitehead), and their mother, Carol (Mena Suvari), who's couch-ridden and sick with lung cancer. Matt recruits Joey for a mission, forcing him to break into an elderly woman's house, which is being fumigated, and steal her secret stash of cash. Joey succeeds, but they're discovered by security guard Hamby (Rainn Wilson) and chased. In the process, Hamby falls into a disused, 20-foot well and breaks his ankle. Matt wants to leave him there, but Joey isn't so sure. He sneaks back to bring Hamby food and medicine, even though he's afraid of what might happen if Hamby gets out. Nevertheless, there's far more to Hamby than anyone realizes.

Is it any good?

As lean and mean as they come, this sharp, emotional thriller is centered on just four characters and a couple of spare locations, and yet it wryly uncoils a surprising number of shocks and layers. An impressive directing debut by screenwriter Alex McAulay (Flower), Don't Tell a Soul is, at its core, a portrait of violence passed down through families. Every character here is a victim, and, ultimately, a perpetrator of violence -- and yet they're all really just looking for love. Joey's relationship with Hamby becomes something of a father-son one, although it constantly shifts between revealing and hiding, threatening and comforting.

Wilson gives the movie's most astute performance; it's almost as if he's playing chess. He makes viewers totally understand why Joey might like him or trust him. And Grazer, who's best known for It, It Chapter Two, and Shazam!, offers another solidly likable turn here. It's hard to take Whitehead as the bully; he's so brutal that it's easy to hate him, but he carries his pain effectively. Starting off with a Jane Austen quote ("What strange creatures brothers are!"), McAulay's filmmaking is snappy but also scruffy, falling back into a lived-in, wintry, dead-leaf look. His script may not entirely, completely hold water, but it certainly feels genuinely unexpected and touching.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Don't Tell a Soul's violence. Is it meant to be shocking or thrilling? How does the movie demonstrate violence being passed down through families?

  • How is bullying depicted? Is the response to it here effective? What are other possible responses to bullying?

  • The movie is about a choice between taking money or saving someone's life. What choice would you make? Why?

  • How is teen drinking portrayed? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • What are the consequences of cigarette smoking in this movie?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

Themes & Topics

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