Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Indignation Movie Poster Image
Mature yet riveting drama about college, family, religion.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 110 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Though the movie tackles complex, thought-provoking themes, it doesn't offer anything very clear or decisive. It ventures into many shades of gray in all of its topics, from freedom of religion, to taking risks in love and war to respecting family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a very smart though somewhat troubled college-age student who thinks he has all the answers but really doesn't. Teens will be able to easily identify with him, but he's not a behavioral role model.


Brief scenes of war, with shooting and killing. Brief punching. Some arguing.


Oral sex in a parked car (out of frame). A woman manually pleasures a man under the covers. Some innuendo and sex talk.


A couple of uses of "f--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Indignation is a 1950s-set drama based on a Philip Roth novel. It deals with many complex themes -- including religion, war, family, sex, freedom, etc -- but rarely draws any clear conclusions around these topics; it's all about gray areas. Still, it's remarkably intelligent and compelling viewing that mature teens should find satisfying. Sexual content includes clearly implied oral sex and a woman stimulating a man with her hands (his reaction is complex and multi-layered), as well as some sex talk and innuendo. There are also brief scenes of war, with shooting and killing; some brief fighting and arguing; and a couple uses of "f--k."

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What's the story?

INDIGNATION takes place in 1951, with Jewish student Marcus (Logan Lerman) attending a small Ohio college. He attempts to settle down and study hard, declining to join the Jewish fraternity and resenting the school requirement that he attend chapel. He also becomes fed up with his distracting roommates and requests a single room. Working in the library, Marcus meets the beautiful WASP Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon) and lands a date with her. She performs a sexual favor on him in a parked car that leaves him more confused than excited, but he eventually decides to continue seeing her. Unfortunately, the dean (Tracy Letts) calls him in for a long chat, and then his mother (Linda Emond) visits with some bad news -- and a warning.

Is it any good?

Based on Philip Roth's 2008 novel, this fine period drama feels both simple and intimate while at the same time effectively covering complex moral, spiritual, intellectual, and romantic themes. James Schamus makes his directorial debut with this film, but since he was formerly the head of Focus Features and a frequent screenwriter for Ang Lee's films (The Ice Storm, Brokeback Mountain, etc.), he knows a thing or two about high-class cinema.

Schamus takes his time with Indignation, allowing the intelligent talk and deep thoughts to settle in and around the intricate, delicate production design and camerawork. The performances are superb, with Letts easily stealing his scenes, and all the actors convey the confusion and anguish of their situation -- as well as hope and love -- without betraying the movie's more intellectual concepts. In other words, it's surprisingly engaging in the moment and will also leave viewers wanting to discuss what they've seen.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Indignation's sexual themes. How are they handled? Delicately? Overtly? What effect do they have? What questions do they raise? How much sexual content in media is appropriate for kids?

  • How does the movie address religion? What ideas does it bring up? Is it being honest? Disrespectful?

  • How does the main character deal with authority figures? Is his behavior admirable? What other ways could he have handled his situation(s)?

  • According to this movie, how was life different in the 1950s? How have things improved? What things were better then?

  • How does the movie compare to Roth's novel?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

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