A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jackie & Ryan is an indie romantic drama about a former country singer (Katherine Heigl) who falls for wandering street musician (Ben Barnes). Although there's some kissing and a scene of a couple in bed together, the sex takes place off camera. There's occasional strong language ("s--t," "a--hole") and mature themes about divorce, custody issues, financial crises, and alternative lifestyles (Ryan is basically a modern-day train-hopper). But the movie does have thought-provoking messages about how some people can have a huge impact on your life, no matter how short a time you've had with them, and it's likely to appeal to teens who've enjoyed music-themed romances like Once and Begin Again.
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What's the story?
In JACKIE & RYAN, two musicians meet in the remote town of Ogden, Utah: Former country singer Jackie (Katherine Heigl) has returned home with her daughter while she goes through a contentious divorce, and Ryan (Ben Barnes) is a bearded street musician who's drifted into town to visit an old friend. First Jackie stops to watch Ryan perform on a corner with his friend, and next he sees her almost get run over by a car and runs to her aid. They strike up a friendship that quickly develops into more, even though Ryan doesn't plan to settle down, and Jackie needs to return to Manhattan to finalize things with her ex. While Jackie pushes Ryan to see what would happen if he took a chance on a real music career, Ryan encourages Jackie not to let her husband's privilege and power keep her from fighting for her daughter.
Is it any good?
Jackie & Ryan is a gentle, heartfelt romance with appropriately understated performances, but the leads lack the necessary chemistry to make the story really sing. Director Ami Canaan Mann (daughter of acclaimed director Michael Mann) has a keen eye for the realistic way that two people become friends and then lovers. The leads in this story aren't starry-eyed adolescents desperate for each other or a stereotypical opposites-attract couple. They're different, yes, but they share a love of music and an appreciation of the present -- because who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Although it isn't a sizzling or dramatic affair, Jackie & Ryan does benefit from exciting bluegrass and folk music that's used both as live accompaniment and a soundtrack. And Mann doesn't shy away from the way that economic hardship can affect the poorer half of a doomed marriage or a modern-day hobo like Ryan, who's so minimalist that he carries all of his belongings on his back from place to place. There's a slightly unnecessary subplot involving Clea Duvall as the wife of Ryan's old friend, Cowboy, who's missing for most of the movie, but at least it shows that Ryan has emotional ties (if not physical ones) to the town. Ultimately, this is a quiet love story about how a handsome wanderer woos and steadies a woman via the wisdom he's gleaned from a life on the road.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how music is used in Jackie & Ryan. Why do you think so many movies feature musicians who fall in love? How does the music reflect the characters' lives and circumstances in this story?
One of the movie's themes is how money (or lack thereof) can make life easier if you have it -- or harder if you don't. How does money affect the characters' lives?
What's unique about Jackie and Ryan's relationship? Did you think it was believable? What do you think will happen between them?