A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jesus Henry Christ is a quirky comedy that follows a 10-year-old genius in his search for his biological father. There's some mild swearing ("goddamn," "sucks") and several homophobic taunts, as well as a few scenes that feature graphic violence that seems to come from nowhere. A high school girl who has decided she's a lesbian faces frequent bullying at school. Also expect some drinking and smoking.
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What's the story?
Henry is a precocious 10-year-old with an IQ in the 300 range who has decided that it's time he learned who his biological father is. A test-tube child who's been raised by his single mom, Patricia (Toni Collette), Henry finally tracks down Slavkin (Michael Sheen), a mild-mannered university professor who might be the man. Slavkin studies the concept of identity: whether people are genetically programmed to be who they are or are subject mostly to external influences. He's also a single dad to Audrey (Samantha Weinstein), a teen who's bullied at school and isn't convinced that Slavkin's actually her father. Together, this unlikely quartet sets out to discover whether they're related and just who they are, anyway.
Is it any good?
This story needs less theory and more story, and perhaps a little less effort at quirk. JESUS HENRY CHRIST is all about becoming who you are, who you're meant to be, or the person you really want to be. That is, if you can figure out who that is in the first place. Slavkin's research is the perfect framework for a film about four people who aren't sure who or what they're supposed to be like. And it raises intriguing questions about the nature of family connections, personality, and destiny.
But the movie ultimately raises more questions than it answers, and it's more of a question for a dissertation than a drama or comedy. At least, as interpreted this way. Jesus Henry Christ isn't as dramatic as its promising premise, nor is it as funny as other films about mixed-up identities. Sheen is quietly impressive as an academic who starts to wonder whether his work is worthwhile, and Collette, as usual, knows how to work herself up into an entertaining frenzy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Henry's family. Do they seem more unusual than other families, or are all families odd in their own ways? What do you think of his mother and her parenting choices?
What do you think about the way Audrey is taunted at school? Do you think she responded well to the bullying? What about the way the teacher handled the situation?
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