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Just Say Goodbye

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Just Say Goodbye Movie Poster Image
Unpolished but heartfelt indie about the impact of suicide.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Shows how strongly and painfully suicide affects loved ones, but does so via a complex situation: Main character has made up his mind and simply refuses help; his friend wants to help, is unable to, must learn how to move on.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sarah does her best to try to help Jesse, but there's ultimately nothing she's able to do. Other characters aren't to be emulated. And Jesse sometimes indulges in selfish or mean behavior -- e.g., making a prank phone call and keying a car.

Violence

Suicide is main topic. Dead bodies, including a mother found by a young boy. Bullying: A bully pushes a character's head against a locker, resulting in bruising. Bullies try to drown main character in lake. A teen punches the bully repeatedly; bloody face. Gun shown. Sound of shot being fired offscreen. A father rages, threatening and hitting his son with a cane. A man grabs a woman by the throat, threatening to punch her. A young boy cowers while his father rages. Burning papers, pictures.

Sex

Brief teen kissing. Discussion about sex. Teen girl wears skimpy clothing. A character kisses girlfriend on her cheek.

Language

Strong, fairly frequent language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "p---y," "ass," "son of a bitch," "goddamn," "hell," "f--got," "f-g," "jerk," "idiot," "moron," "loser," "weirdo," "Jesus," and "for Christ's sake."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A secondary, adult character is an alcoholic who's shown drunk, drinking in a bar, drinking beers around the house. Empty beer bottles everywhere in house. A woman holds a glass of wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Just Say Goodbye is an indie drama about bullying and teen suicide. It's sometimes a bit awkward (like an after-school special), but the characters and emotions come through as honest and heartfelt. It's also complex in the way it shows how suicide affects loved ones. Expect to see harsh bullying: A character's head is slammed against a locker, and a victim is both punched and nearly drowned in a lake. An alcoholic threatens and hits his son with a cane, and grabs a woman by the throat and threatens to punch her. A gun is shown, and a gunshot is heard. Dead bodies are shown, including the mother of a young child (he's the one who finds her). Language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," and more. Teens kiss, and there's some sex talk. The alcoholic character is shown drunk in several scenes, sitting at a bar, and with empty beer bottles strewn about his house.

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What's the story?

In JUST SAY GOODBYE, 6-year-old Jesse Peterson finds his mother dead in bed, her bedside littered with empty pill bottles. Ten years after this devastating day, Jesse (Max MacKenzie) has grown into a withdrawn, artistic teen who lives with his angry, alcoholic father (William Galatis) and is bullied by well-to-do Chase (Jesse Walters) at school. Jesse's only solace is his friendship with Sarah (Katerina Eichenberger). She senses that something is wrong, and he confesses that he's planning to kill himself. He finds great relief in admitting his thoughts, but Sarah is tormented by the idea and desperately tries to prevent him from going through with it. Just when things look their bleakest, Jesse gets a call that an art school in New York may be interested in giving him a scholarship, if he can assemble a portfolio. Is there hope for Jesse?

Is it any good?

Though it first feels like a low-budget after-school special, this indie drama quickly shows that it's heartfelt, caring deeply about its characters' feelings. Certainly Just Say Goodbye has its awkward, predictable moments, especially in the beginning, as it sets up themes of alcoholism, school bullying, and suicide -- with all the expected images and ideas. But it's not long before the genuine performances by MacKenzie and Eichenberger begin to resonate. They, and the movie, follow an organic flow of character.

In one scene, Sarah tries to seduce Jesse, to sleep with him if he'll promise not to go through with his plans. The ploy quickly fails, yet the teens are wise enough to explore their feelings around the situation. Rather than a major turning point in the plot, it comes across as just a hiccup in their friendship, a sublime character-building moment. Just Say Goodbye falters more when it actually does employ traditional screenwriting-school plot turns, but not enough to sink the movie. The ending may be surprising, and it will be up to parents to decide whether it sends the right message to teens.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Just Say Goodbye handles the topic of suicide. How does the movie view Jesse's feelings and decision? What are the consequences? When is it important to talk about mental health, especially if you're worried about a friend or family member?

  • How is bullying depicted? Teens: Have you witnessed or experienced cyberbullying or more traditional bullying? What different forms can this behavior take these days? What defenses can you use against it?

  • How is drinking portrayed? Why does the character drink? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • What are the relationships between parents and teens like in this movie? Are they realistic? Is there communication? How could these relationships be improved?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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