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High Life

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
High Life Movie Poster Image
Pattinson stars in disturbing, violent, profane sci-fi tale.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

A second chance can be used to seek redemption.

Positive Role Models & Representations

In sexual environment, one character uses abstinence as form of control. He's the calm force, clear thinker in the chaos. But he's no role model. A few people within group of criminals use their second chance to seek appropriate redemption.

Violence

Violence is bloody, disturbing. Several rapes, one of which is very brutal; one takes place while victim is drugged to sleep soundly. Fight with broken glass, a couple of murders with blunt instruments. A woman's head is pressurized and explodes. Men punch women in the face on several occasions. Fingers are sliced open. A woman calmly details how she wants to beat up another woman. Hostile, angry interactions and moments of rage.

Sex

A nude woman explicitly masturbates on a Sybian saddle (a device made to facilitate female masturbation). Women and men are shown completely naked. Camera lingers on baby girl's genitals while she's receiving a bath. A woman douches. Close-ups of dripping postcoital bodily fluids, menstrual blood, lactating breasts.

Language

Extremely strong, frequent language includes "bitch," "bulls--t," "c--kblock," "d--k," "piss," "p---y," "s--t," and "f--k." A man gently talks to a baby using profanity. Middle-finger gesture. Crude sexual dialogue.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Men donate sperm in exchange for pill that will get them high. A woman is referred to as a crackhead; a flashback shows her dirty, acting bizarrely.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although the Robert Pattinson sci-fi drama High Life is being pitched as a story about a father trying to survive with his daughter in space, it's really about how they got there. Murderous criminals are "recycled" into a crew of astronauts on a research mission; one goal of the mission is to procreate in deep space. The result is a crude, profane, violent film that aspires to be high art but is more a collection of things you wish you could unsee. It creates a highly sexual environment in which everything about reproduction is cold, clinical, and icky. French director Claire Denis viscerally attacks the audience with shocking rapes (brutal and drugged), dripping bodily fluids, and a never-ending scene in which a completely nude Juliette Binoche masturbates on top of a sex chair. Other disturbing scenes include murders with blunt instruments, a woman's head exploding, and more. Language is constant and extremely strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," crude sexual terms, and more.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCultClassic Reviews April 5, 2019

CSM misses the mark... again.

Dear CSM users: Don't listen to the people who run this website. This is fantastically acted, beautifully shot film about the darkness of human nature and... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 year old Written bySeanconnell86 April 7, 2019

Decent

This is really good, but painfully disturbing. Don’t watch with loved ones.
Teen, 13 years old Written bySuited Casually April 5, 2019

It is a taste of something that only certain people like.

I personally liked it but don't watch it with anyone who is a close loved one except for a spouse, at best.

What's the story?

In HIGH LIFE, a space mission with a crew of convicts turns to chaos, leaving Monte (Robert Pattinson) struggling to survive outside the solar system while raising his infant daughter. 

Is it any good?

No matter what anyone might say, there's not one good reason to see High Life -- and a thousand reasons not to. It's a film that loves its contrasts: pensive, stagnant cinematography drenched in production design (think dead bodies vertically floating through space like silent sheet music); soft-spoken dialogue embedded in stillness set against images of blood and death. Writer-director Claire Denis makes it clear: This is art, and if you don't like it, there's something wrong with you. But you're more likely to end up feeling like there's something wrong after you watch the entirety of this film. 

The characters are society's worst, and they act out their worst instincts: fighting each other with punches to the face, shovels to the head, and shards of glass ripping through the skin. Not gross enough? How about watching someone's head slowly explode? Or a woman get repeatedly punched in the face while raped in front of her restrained, screaming friends? Film is a medium that allows viewers to see, feel, and experience situations they might otherwise not, and Denis' intention seems to be to provoke the audience far out of their comfort zone. A teen experiencing her first period in front of her dad, images of dead dogs and children -- it's all intended to be a beautiful horror show. Perhaps it's all set in space to demonstrate that nothing is more alien to us than human behavior, but, to what end? 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they believe the writer-director's intent was in creating High Life. Is there a message?

  • Cruelty is a theme in the film. How is cruelty displayed? Are criminals deserving of treatment similar to the cruelty they exacted upon others? 

  • Monte says that he finds power in abstinence. What does that mean in this case? On the other hand, his other companions show that sexual frustration leads to violence -- do you think that's true?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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