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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 IO is a 2019 sci-fi dystopic exploration into climate change disaster. Some of the last surviving humans on Earth head for the last shuttle off the toxic planet. A few zones of breathable atmosphere remain, but scenes set in dead cities destroyed by deadly air provide an eerie context that may appear frightening to younger children. Walking this movie's bleak outlook back to present-day suggests the responsibility for the planet's predicted future destruction lies squarely in the hands of todays' viewers. A man and woman kiss. Language includes "f--k," and nude women are depicted in paintings. A man describes watching his wife die of starvation. A woman chooses to die.
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What's the story?
Like The Hunger Games and Maze Runner, IO (pronounced "I-oh") predicts a grim future for earthlings, this time due to the destruction of the planet's natural resources, like clean air and water. The movie never explicitly outlines whether it was fossil fuels or other causes that made Earth uninhabitable, but when we meet 20-ish Sam (Margaret Qualley), she knows nothing of the way the Earth used to be, so clearly problems have been going on for quite a while. Her father, Dr. Walden (Danny Huston), was a scientist and advocate for staying on Earth to nurture it back to health, and their experiments together with beehives are at the heart of their reclamation efforts. But all has not been well in their isolated scientific enclave, and when a stranger drops out of the sky (in a helium balloon) to bring Sam and her dad to the last launch leaving Earth for the colony on Io, a moon of Jupiter, Sam must decide if she wants to make the journey and leave behind the desolate planet she and her father worked to revive.
Is it any good?
Teens who love dystopian tales may be interested but they are likely to be disappointed. IO is extremely slow-moving, and if it has a point, it would be difficult to articulate it without dredging up dozens of clichés from far better books and movies about equally-disastrous outcomes for our planet. The filmmakers seem to be educated people. The theory of evolution is explained in one oversimplified sentence. A character appreciates art and beauty. And Yeats' poem "Leda and the Swan" is recited, but to no particular, nor comprehensible, end. Older kids who like stories about grim futures can certainly find better alternatives.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's unspoken message, that Earth's future could be grim if people don't stop polluting it now. Do you think IO is sending a pro-environmentalist message? What plot points or dialogue suggest a point of view?
The movie seems to suggest that no one can do it alone -- be happy, be productive, be fulfilled. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Do you think teens who watch this will be inspired to take better care of the environment? What can you do to make a difference?
For kids who love sci-fi
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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.