A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Keith is a film about high school students that contains some underage drinking, sexuality, the implied loss of virginity between high school students, and some mature discussions of sex and that concerns a teen struggling with cancer. Though it's ultimately a film about how the power of love can overcome some fairly stark circumstances, there's some erratic behavior related to those circumstances, such as a disregard for school, goals, and rules, including some law-breaking and dishonesty, many of these behaviors without consequence.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Seventeen-year-old Natalie (Elisabeth Harnois) is a high school star with great grades and a tennis scholarship to Duke on the horizon if she stays focused. But when she's paired with Keith (Jesse McCartney) in the chemistry lab, an enigmatic loner with a bad attitude who flouts the rules and doesn't seem to care what anyone thinks, her focus begins to shift. Keith not only seems like he has something to hide, but he acts like he has nothing to lose. As Natalie gets pulled into his mystery, she begins to lose sight of everything she thought she wanted.
Is it any good?
KEITH often resembles an old screwball comedy in its characters and their chemistry. There's a wise-cracking tough guy and a feisty woman paired together who hate each other at first, then slowly thaw into each other's arms over 95 minutes with increasingly erratic behavior. Only this is a movie set in high school about a kid who has terminal cancer. But since you don't know that for the first 90 minutes of the film, the actions make more sense. Still, it's sometimes hard to see the bigger message, if there is one. Love is crazy? Dying is the best exemption to chemistry lab? Though consequences are shown for some of these choices, none of the characters seems to care too much.
For that reason, the frank discussions of sex, the mature handling of loss of virginity, and the fairly casual attitudes about partying, underage drinking, and getting away for the weekend without parents may ring a bit too mature for younger teens who aren't ready for vaguer messages about the purpose of life. But for an older teenager, there may be some enjoyment here in a terminal-illness romance that trades the usual cliquish teen concerns for a whirlwind, offbeat pairing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about terminal illness. Does Keith's behavior in the film seem believable? What about Natalie's? What are other ways you've seen reactions to terminal illness depicted in films in terms of the attitude of the patient and those close to him or her?
What would you do if you knew you only had so long to live? Would you be angry? Would you try to accomplish something big?
How did the filmmakers' use of suspense regarding Keith's condition work in the film? Is it likely someone could keep an illness a secret at school? How does it add to or detract from the experience for the viewer?
- On DVD or streaming: February 3, 2009
- Cast: Jesse McCartney, Elisabeth Harnois, Jennifer Grey
- Director: Todd Kessler
- Studio: Image Entertainment
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: High School
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Rated PG-13 for brief sexuality and language.
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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