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Parents' Guide to

Forgive Us Our Debts

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Dark Italian drama has some violence, cursing.

Movie NR 2018 104 minutes
Forgive Us Our Debts Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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This movie is an understated drama in which a man's financial fortune rises as his moral compass begins to fade away. This man, Guido, unemployed and struggling under the weight of crushing debt, takes on work as a debt collector for the very agency trying to collect his debt. The plan is to work for them until the debt is paid. As he learns the tricks of the trade, the audience is also given a crash course in how debt is collected in Italy: through public shaming, physical assault, and emotional cruelty. It makes the annoying phone calls of creditors in the States seem downright pleasant by comparison. While Guido's partner, the successful and savvy Franco, is able to rationalize the morally gray areas in the work, Guido cannot. What emerges is an excellent study of characters trapped in a system that doesn't seem to be doing anyone except the wealthy any good, and the desperate lengths people will go to to survive in the post-capitalist world.

Forgive Us Our Debts is a very good film, but it's not a great film. What prevents it from being truly great is its almost-desperate attempt to make sure that the audience understands the overall point. That lack of subtlety is jarring. For instance, scenes in a Catholic church in which Franco recites the Lord's Prayer don't tell us anything we don't already know about the title, the theme of the movie, and Franco's moral ambiguity. A snooker game in which the balls on the table are compared to industries and countries and their relative power feels belabored and stylized. And bar talk about contemporary Italian society tells us nothing new. And yet, it's still a worthwhile movie and a fascinating exploration of the lines between right and wrong in a system where such lines seem to exist only on paper.

Movie Details

  • On DVD or streaming: May 4, 2018
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 104 minutes
  • MPAA rating: NR
  • Last updated: February 18, 2023

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