Thought-provoking film about social class; teens+.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie deals very frankly with issues of teen sexual involvement. Chat pressures Henri to have sex with him by telling her that he can become sick by being "stopped." She tries to stall for time by telling him that her mother would not want her to have sex unless they were dating and that she is "on the rag." She does decide to enter into a sexual relationship, but it is clear that it is based on her anger at her mother and her desperate wish to be closer to Chat and his family, and that their relationship is not one of maturity or intimacy. The movie has alcohol and one character who may have a drinking problem. A parent slaps a child. Children are upset and hurt by their parents' relationship problems. There are emotional confrontations, references to abuse, and a portrayal of the problems of poverty that may be upsetting. A strength of the movie is the positive portrayal of a Native American character and of a respectful and tender inter-racial relationship. In addition, the movie has a sympathetic portrayal of a character struggling with a psychological disorder.
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What's the Story?
Fourteen-year-old Henri (Addie Land) and her mother Kate (Cara Seymour) are moving -- again -- this time to live with Kate's mother. Henri starts high school and meets Chat (Noah Fleiss), a confident rich kid. Henri views Chat's family as everything she wished she'd had, and she begins to distance herself from Kate and her grandmother -- she feels ashamed of them and of herself. Henri is so swept away she does not notice that Chat and his family are struggling, too. Chat pressures Henri to have sex with him and Henri is so young and so needy and has so little sense of herself that she does not know how to say no. Kate feels she is losing Henri, just as she is beginning to feel she can create the life she wants for both of them. Desperate to see Henri, Kate goes to Chat's house as a door-to-door make-up saleswoman. Henri insists that she not reveal their relationship, and mom ends up giving daughter a make-over. Kate nervously but tenderly ministers to Henri in a moment that symbolizes her yearning to care for Henri, to make her happy. But it only emphasizes their similarities, which so horrifies Henri that she makes an impetuous decision she believes will separate herself from Kate decisively.
Is It Any Good?
Writer/director Enid Zentelis says that she wanted to create real characters dealing with dire poverty without overly romanticizing them or portraying them as idiots or addicts, and she succeeds. The movie's greatest strength is that all of her characters on both sides of the economic spectrum are sensitively handled and beautifully portrayed. Zentelis also uses the settings effectively to tell the story, visually and metaphorically. Both Henri's and Chat's mother do not want to leave the house; one as a sort of comfortable prison, one as a destination, but both as a kind of hide-out.
The script is sometimes awkward and over-reaching, but it is helped a great deal by the natural but sensitive performances, especially Gary Farmer as a man who befriends Kate and Henri. When he says, "I know who I am and I know who you are," it is wise, moving, and romantic.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how teenagers often believe that other families have everything that they wish they had at home. How did the adults in your family use what they learned from other families to create a home that was better -- or at least better for them -- than the one they grew up in? Why did Henri feel pressured to have sex with Chat? How should she have responded to him? Both Henri and Chat seem ashamed of their parents. Why? Kate says, "There's nothing worse than having my own child ashamed of me." Given all she has had to deal with, is that surprising? Chat's father says that his wife's problem makes him feel lonely. Families could talk about the impact that illness has on other members of the household.
- In theaters: September 10, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: November 10, 2009
- Cast: Cara Seymour, Mary Kay Place, Noah Fleiss
- Director: Enid Zentelis
- Studio: Evergreen Films Inc.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content involving teens, and for language
- Last updated: January 9, 2023
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