Parents' Guide to

Flatliners (1990)

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

'90s thriller about near-death experiences is very violent.

Movie R 1990 114 minutes
Flatliners (1990) Poster Image

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The timeless themes outweigh the dated style of Flatliners. In other words, while it's very much a movie rooted in 1990 in terms of noir attitude and questionable hair and eyewear choices, the desire to find the meaning in life and death, and how our sins and unresolved issues might come back to haunt us in the afterlife, remain as relevant as ever. Rather than seeing the afterlife as the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel," Flatliners explores the idea of the afterlife as atonement, a place where those we wronged get even. It walks a treacherous path as it explores this idea -- only one of the characters suffers the consequences for the conscious misdeeds of his young adulthood. The others are confronted by those they hurt when they were too young to know any better. There just wasn't enough time to explore the nuances of the debate in a feature-length film, but Flatliners certainly tries.

Some of the movie seems forced or gratuitous; Oliver Platt's character seems to only be there to freak out at the appropriately dramatic times, and Julia Roberts' character only seems to be there because they needed a woman to interact with the other four dudes, and she's considered "cold" because she won't sleep with them. Be that as it may, an unwieldy, potentially hydra-headed theme finds a manageable form through these characters' transgressions and unpleasant memories and provides a unique take on life after death.

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