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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
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?
- In theaters: April 5, 2019
- Cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Andre Benjamin
- Director: Claire Denis
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing sexual and violent content including sexual assault, graphic nudity, and for language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.