This movie, set in an almost Orwellian future, is most definitely not for young kids! It was recommended to me by a teacher, and I think I must have finally watched it when I was about 13/14. However, by that time, I was already taking courses in philosophy and reading “1984”. I have prepared a list of all the aspects of Gattaca that I deem problematic for children, but in the end, I would say that all parents much know their child.
SPOILERS AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
-Death: A rather unimportant character dies fairly towards the beginning of the movie. He is badly beaten up and there is a lot of blood. Also, towards the end of the film, one of the main two characters commits suicide by burning himself. While this scene is not graphic, it can still be disturbing.
-Injury: There is a fight scene, and one of the protagonists is paralyzed (his accident is not shown but is referred to).
-Blood and gore: A very badly battered corpse is shown twice. Rather disturbing and realistic. A couple of blood tests are taken throughout the film and one can see a lots of singular drops of blood. Anyone squeamish about needles may want to turn away. Also, there are several images of blood samples.
-Tragedy: The ending of the film is bitter sweet for one of the characters; what can be perceived as a happy ending is, when looked at deeper, actually not all that happy. He reaches his goals at the end of the movie, but his last monologue sounds rather maudlin, and it is unclear whether or not he will survive the mission he has set out on. For the other protagonist, the ending is most definitely tragic, for he commits suicide, having been unable to rid himself of his crushing perfectionism and post traumatic stress.
-Psychology: Jerome Eugene, a pratagoist of the story, has a very complex psyche. He is a crippling perfectionist, and attempts suicide because of it. When his attempt fails, he is left permanently injured and at odds with himself. He drinks a lot and is rather harsh and cynical. Even after the events of the film, he is unable to rid himself of these feelings and attempt suicide, this time succeeding. Such a psychologically complex character may be hard for children to comprehend.
-Political/social undertones: Gattaca is a harsh but believable film about the effects of tampering with DNA. It also addresses discrimination (due to genetics) and the drastic measure people will go to to free themselves of the shackles put on them by society. In an early monologue, we are told how society can twist the legality of things to enforce their prejudices on the people. In typical Andrew Nicol style, the movie is very critical about society and, especially, science, and is of very Orwellian nature. It takes a strong stance against genetic engineering and discrimination
-Sex/Innuendo: A comment about the size of a man’s penis is made and a sex scene is shown, although there is very little nudity.
- Nudity: Hardly. Arms and backs, and once a tiny bit of a bottom, if my memory serves me right.
-Language: A few f***s and sh**s. The word piss is used a few times.
-Drugs: Both protagonists smoke and drink; one in excess and he is seen vomiting due to the effects of alcohol once. Drugs are not glorified.
-Suspense: The whole film is rather filled with suspense, as it revolves around whether or not the main character Vincent will get away with a massive deception. There is one rather “quake-on-your-seat” moment, in which the paralyzed Jerome must make his way up a shockingly long and winding flight of stairs in a short time. Other than that, a few little exciting moments, nothing that will have you in tears of anticipation.
-Questionable messages: While the message of the movie is not negative, is does show us a very hopeless future that we might well be heading towards if we don’t introduce tolerance and keep tampering with mother nature the way we do. One of the protagonists lies to achieve his goals, but it would be wrong to say it is without consequence, for he does suffer from feelings of guilt and always has to be meticulously careful to keep his deception up. Plus, his only way to achieve the goals that have been unfairly deemed out of his reach since the day he was born is through deception, so that makes the whole lying business much more acceptable. Also, it does show suicide as a last way out, which may not be the most positive message for kids.
-Good stuff: Well, to start off with, Gattaca boasts a brilliant story, exceptional direction and a stellar cast including Jude Law, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Alan Arkin. It is very rich in subject matter to analyse and discuss and is ingenious in terms of premise and story. I challenge everyone to research the names of the characters, plus the words plays (I’ll give you a hit: Invalid and Degenerate) The main message is that, in the end, we can overcome our disadvantages and that the human spirit and the will of the individual will prevail if truly strong enough. It encourages us to embrace limitations and beat them, and is very inspiring. Gattaca is an eye opening movie about science and society, and is definitely worth watching (despite a couple of plot flaws that we can forgive on account of the movie being otherwise fantastic).
I would say that parents should watch Gattaca before showing it to their children. It should only be viewed by people emotionally and intellectually mature, and it’s best if viewers already take a philosophical interest in the problems of our society. One cannot expect that everyone will comprehend the true meaning of the film immediately, so parents should make themselves available for discussions before and after viewing. Gattaca may be perceived as boring by some kids, while others (like myself) will lap it up like a cat would milk. A great film!