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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Only the mother in this family shows much sign of caring for the people in the clan, and her efforts don't really engender much affection between the others. There's plenty of hostility and even more suppressed anger, and the few scenes that show tenderness and caring serve to soothe people after bitter arguments.
Positive Role Models
The mother is selfless and caring, but even she has hidden secrets. Everyone else lets their anger control them.
Violence & Scariness
Several very intense arguments, including one that escalates into violence when a tween boy is so enraged that he attacks his father. Some scenes feature a father who metes out punishments so harsh they border on cruel. Much of the movie's action is precipitated by a terrible car accident.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One scene features two former lovers who connect during an emotional party. The sounds of their coupling are heard from the next room.
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Relatively frequent swearing includes "s--t," "a--hole," "hell," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), and multiple uses of "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
One character prefers expensive German cars, including a Mercedes Benz and a Porsche.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One character smokes cigarettes in several scenes, and some people drink wine at social events.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fireflies in the Garden is a drama starring Julia Roberts and Ryan Reynolds about the relationship between a domineering father, the son who grows up to despise him, and the mother who keeps the family together until an unexpected tragedy throws the entire household into despair. The father rules the household through his anger and his often-cruel punishments, creating a portrait of a deeply unpleasant place to grow up. There are several intense arguments and a good bit of swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), as well as some scenes that seem to come close to child abuse. One off-screen sex scene includes overheard noises. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN boasts a stellar cast and an unsatisfying script. Writer-director Dennis Lee has created a family that feels truly terrible -- so awful, in fact, that it makes viewers wonder why the mother would bear to stay with such a brute. Michael seems both sensible yet disturbed that he hates his father so much, but given what we see of his upbringing, it's impossible to imagine any other outcome.
Dafoe does an excellent job of terrorizing his son (and the audience) as a slightly deranged father. In fact, except for a few scenes in which he's entertaining his great-niece, the character has almost no screen time in which he's not portrayed as a violent. cruel brute. No wonder Michael has written a novel that's a barely disguised memoir about his dysfunctional family. And that's what makes the movie's ending so baffling and sunsatisfying. After completely convincing the audience that Charles has no redeeming features and can't be forgiven, Michael makes a decision that seems dramatic on the screen yet makes no sense at all.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.