Emoticon

 
Human connections trump technology in social-media drama.
  • Review Date: May 30, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 80 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Technology and social media are great for staying connected to friends and family, but Emoticon also reminds teens to "look at things without a filter" instead of going through the motions of an experience to figure out what's shareable on social media. Although "modern forms of communication" make it easy to simplify emotions and avoid confrontation, teens will see the importance of communicating with others face to face instead of through a screen.

Positive role models

Elena acts as both a friend and mother figure to Luke and Amanda, who feel comfortable opening up to her about their personal issues. Not all viewers will agree with some of her decisions, but she means well. Although Amanda has a strained relationship with her mother, she sees what a healthy mother-daughter relationship looks like when she spends time at Sadie's home.

Violence

Amanda and her friend Jackie get in a fight -- slapping and hair pulling -- after school, which results in an instance of cyberbullying via Facebook.

Sex

Couples are seen kissing in bed, and some of Amanda's friends make sexual references -- like how Jackie wants to "bone your brother" or is "blowing him." There's also a teen pregnancy scare after Luke and Jackie have unprotected sex (an adult character gets the morning-after pill for them).

Language

Words like "retarded," "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "bitch," and "douche bag" are used during the movie.

Consumerism

Characters use Apple products -- iPhones, iPads, and Macbooks -- plus Facebook, Twitter, and Skype to communicate with each other.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink during dinner; teenagers are seen drinking and smoking at a party. Elena also smokes with Luke after the party.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Emoticon explores how technology and social media affect our relationships and the way we communicate with each other. There's a fight -- slapping and hair pulling -- between two teenage girls resulting in one instance of cyberbullying via Facebook. Teenagers are seen drinking alcohol and smoking at a party, and in one scene, the main character smokes with her boyfriend's son. A teenage couple has unprotected sex that results in a pregnancy scare, while the main character deals with the aftermath of her miscarriage. Characters sometimes use strong language like "retarded," "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "ass," and "douche bag."

What's the story?

Elena Gallenti (Livia De Paolis) is an anthropology graduate student writing her thesis on modern forms of communication and their effect on relationships in the digital age. Although she sometimes has difficulty communicating the "old fashioned" way, her Ph. D. advisor (Carol Kane) and her boyfriend's two teenage kids, Luke (Miles Chandler) and Amanda (Diane Guerrero), help her understand how essential meaningful human connections are when it comes to love and intimacy.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Although EMOTICON's story line often feels like it's straying from examining "modern forms of communication," that's also the point of the movie. Director/star De Paolis' characters seek human connections to work through their problems when technology and social media can't provide the answer. It's easy to hide behind a screen, and the characters often do -- Elena claiming the connection is bad when her mother dismisses her problems, Jackie and Amanda passive aggressively fighting over Facebook, editing texts or tweets before pressing send -- but it isn't until they've opened up to someone else the "old fashioned" way that they begin to sort through their complex emotions.

Additionally, the use of showing scenes through various filters -- videos recorded on iPhones or played on Facebook and Skype video chats -- combined with Elena's request for Luke to "put down the camera and look at it without a filter" also remind us to be fully present in the moments we experience instead of looking for ways to share them on social media.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about modern forms of communication. What impact do you think they have on our relationships with others? Besides Facebook, texting, and video chatting, are there any other modern ways we keep in touch with others?

  • Elena believes that we use technology and social media as a way to simplify our emotions in order to share them with others. Do you agree with her?

  • Why do you think Jackie chose to write a mean status about Amanda on Facebook after their fight? What should she have done instead? What can you do to prevent cyberbullying from happening?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 30, 2014
DVD release date:July 8, 2014
Cast:Livia De Paolis, Carol Kane, Michael Cristofer
Director:Livia De Paolis
Studio:Indican Pictures
Genre:Drama
Run time:80 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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