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Head Full of Honey

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Head Full of Honey Movie Poster Image
Alzheimer's dramedy has language, unrealistic behavior.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 139 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Poses interesting questions about how to cope with someone who has Alzheimer's, with answers that seem rooted in humanistic approaches. But actual actions involved -- allowing a dangerously impaired individual to fire guns and fireworks, drive, and supervise a 10-year-old on an international trip -- undermine that message.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Everyone behaves so irresponsibly and unrealistically that they're ultimately very poor role models. But some of them do genuinely care for the grandfather.

Violence

One punch between adults. Slapstick moments include a gun being fired near a child, fireworks destroying a party, and non-injury car accidents. A man who has Alzheimer's gropes a sleeping woman, to her horror on waking; it's waved off as OK.

Sex

Talk of a man who has Alzheimer's having a love of breasts. He also gropes a sleeping woman (see "Violence").

Language

A fair amount of strong language; words include "f--k" (rarely), "s--t," "poop," "ass," "bastard," "crap," "d--k," and "retard."

Consumerism

Luxury vehicles are used to represent wealth.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink (wine, whiskey) at dinner and parties and to unwind.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Head Full of Honey is a dramedy about the bond between a 10-year-old girl (Sophia Lane Nolte) who goes on a road trip from England to Italy with her grandfather (Nick Nolte), who has worsening Alzheimer's disease. Expect strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "retard," and more), non-explicit sexual situations (specifically, talk of a man's love of breasts), and a man groping a woman while she sleeps. Adults punch each other, and there are non-injury car accidents. Slapstick moments (with no consequences) include a gun being fired near a child and fireworks destroying a party. Matt Dillon, Emily Mortimer, and Jacqueline Bisset co-star in director Til Schweiger's remake of his own 2014 German hit.

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What's the story?

In HEAD FULL OF HONEY, 10-year-old Tilda (Sophia Lane Nolte) is very close to her grandfather, Amadeus (Nick Nolte), who has Alzheimer's and whose condition has been rapidly deteriorating since his wife's death. Rather than allow her bickering parents (Matt Dillon, Emily Mortimer) to put him in a care facility, Tilda takes the worsening Amadeus on an improvised road trip from England to Italy.

Is it any good?

This film's heart is in the right place, but there's so much wrong about it that it ends up hurting more than helping. German actor/director Til Schweiger, remaking his own 2014 German-language hit (which was on his country's shortlist for Oscar submission), takes a humanist approach in Head Full of Honey. He seems to be arguing for the quality of a person's life above all else, even as that person's mind dims. Thus the road-trip scenario: It's about, as the film puts it, trying to heal with joy. But the film takes so many leaps in the name of comedy that it comes across as advocating dangerous behavior -- and even making dementia "cute" for laughs.

Schweiger has landed an outstanding cast. While it's disarming to see Nolte in a cuddly role (the younger Nolte is his real-life daughter), Dillon and Mortimer are wasted as a bickering couple. Veterans like Jacqueline Bisset, Eric Roberts, Claire Forlani, and Greta Scacchi also keep popping up. And the family's behavior is dangerously irresponsible. They don't take restrictive action after Amadeus shoots up a room with Tilda in it, proves he's out of touch with reality, and almost burns down their home twice. He drives, unable to respond to traffic lights, and gets in accidents. No one is hurt, but there are no repercussions at all. Then he accompanies Tilda on an improvised trek across Europe. Nick Nolte is such a skilled actor that he finds moments of truth while struggling with his "head full of honey," but more often, Amadeus is committing goofy antics for viewers' yuks. Schweiger is a veteran director, but he makes bizarre decisions. His use of score and musical breaks sounds forced and Hollywoody. His rapid editing (he's also co-editor) is distracting: In a quiet eulogy scene, he inexplicably moves the viewer's eye all over the church. The script has its charming moments, but Head Full of Honey is ultimately bogged down by tone and plot problems.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Alzheimer's disease. Have you known anyone who had it? What were the effects on the person who had it? What about their family? Do you think those who have the disease are fairly represented in this film?

  • Do you think the characters should have behaved differently -- especially when, say, the grandfather shot up a room with a child in it or nearly burned down the house twice? Do you have the same standard of behavior for movie characters that you do for real-life people?

  • Talk about the family dynamics in Head Full of Honey. Do they seem realistic? Why or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love family stories

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