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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Face 2 Face is about two childhood friends reconnecting as high schoolers, and it addresses difficult subjects: social ostracism, peer pressure, teen sex, coming out, incest, rape, and anti-gay violence. The two friends reconnect online as high schoolers, years after one moved from Michigan to California. They slowly reveal truths about the challenges they each face. Most of the story is told through computer and phone screens. Sex is discussed but there's no nudity. The beginning of rape is shown. Suicide is discussed; someone attempts it. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "d--k," and "f--got." A parent turns to alcohol after losing his job.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Distraught high school student Teel (Daniel Amerman) contacts his childhood friend Madison (Daniela Bobadilla) in FACE 2 FACE. Once she remembers who he is, they begin a warm and charming friendship. She reveals herself to be a party girl with a crush on a player named Cole (Eric A.H. Watson). Teel reveals that he has no friends. Director and co-writer Matthew Toronto uses laptop and cellphone screens as the frames in which the drama in their lives unfolds. The metaphor is clear: Their lives are confined by the ignorance and inexperience of youth, by peer pressure and signals from the outside world that everyone must be perfect to be happy. Madison and Teel are both smart, compassionate, and in their own ways lost, but through mutual support they help each other cope.
Is it any good?
The movie gets off to a slow start, but director and co-writer Matthew Toronto quickly pushes past teen clichés and the computer screen gimmick to genuinely engage viewers. Two intelligent and decent kids truly listen to each other and make an emotional connection that in several ways saves both of their lives. The movie has value for that alone.
For a film that gets so much right, it's odd to catch some missteps. A savvy teen character suggests her friend go on Facebook to widen his social circle, even though Instagram and Snapchat are by far the more common communication apps of choice among kids. And it seems unlikely that a school would hand over planning a retirement party for its principal to the principal's teenage daughter. That's why viewers will be grateful for lead performances by both Amerman and Bobadilla that are engaging and true. Wherever the script leads them away from believability, these actors' charm and talent keep the viewer involved. So much of what is good about this movie boils down to the human longing for acceptance, flaws and all; Face 2 Face does a great job of communicating that need and desire.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how reaching out to old friends can help bolster self-esteem. Why do you think Teel got in touch with Madison after so many years in Face 2 Face? What old friend would you like to reconnect with?
Madison and Teel both have secrets. How does the movie set up the revelations they make to one another? When they tell their secrets, are they surprising?
How well does telling the story mostly through computer and phone screens work? Does it feel like a gimmick, or do you think it adds something valuable to the story's believability?
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