Life as a House Movie Poster Image

Life as a House

Uneven but moving story of reconcilliation.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2001
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

What parents need to know


Sad death of character, some tense and scary moments.


Brief nudity, sexual situations including teens and prostitution.


Very strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drug abuse an issue in the movie.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has drug use, very strong language, sexual situations and references, including teen prostitution, nudity, masturbation involving attempted suffocation, and adult-teen sexual encounters. Teenagers take very foolish risks with little consequence beyond their own misery. There is a very sad death.

Parents say

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What's the story?

Kevin Kline plays George, an unhappy man who creates meticulously crafted models in an architectural firm. His skills are no longer valuable in an era of computerized design, his ex-wife does not like him, his teenage son hates everyone, including himself, and his house is literally falling down around him. When George is fired, he decides to tear down his house, which was built by his own father, and build a new one with his son, Sam (Hayden Christiansen). At first, Sam is hostile and uncooperative. Then he is hostile and a little bit cooperative. Then he, like George, learns the power of tearing down painful parts of their history and starting over again to build something new. George's ex-wife Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her children become intrigued with the project. And the pretty teenager next door becomes intrigued with Sam. Soon, everybody is pitching in except for the angry neighbor who vows to stop them.

Is it any good?


This film is unexpectedly touching. When a movie is called LIFE AS A HOUSE, you enter on full metaphor alert. When it turns out to be about an estranged father and son who pull down an old shack and construct a dream house overlooking the ocean and it turns out to be a transforming experience for everyone who happens by while it is in progress plus including a tragic death that is still another transforming experience for everyone, you have every right to expect a generic made-for-TV-movie uplifting weepie. But this movie gives us something more, thanks to a script by Mark Andrus (of "As Good as it Gets") and a first-rate cast.

There is a lot wrong with Life as a House. The plot is creaky and manipulative. The female characters are all fantasy figures. Some of the plot lines never get resolved -- they just stop (or, in one case, just fall off the roof). The solution to the problem with the neighbor is unintentionally unnerving. But there is a lot that is right with the movie, too, including subtle, magnetic performances and moments of real power and feeling. If the movie is not as dazzling as the finished house, at least it is not as decrepit as the shack.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why it was so hard for Sam to feel good about himself, and why the things he tried to make himself feel better did not work. What did he mean when he said that it felt better to feel things? Why was physical touch so important to many of the characters? Families will also want to talk about the behavior of Colleen and Alyssa and their decisions about their sexual relationships.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 26, 2001
DVD/Streaming release date:March 26, 2002
Cast:Hayden Christensen, Jena Malone, Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas
Director:Irwin Winkler
Studio:New Line
Run time:125 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, sexuality and drug use

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Teen, 13 years old Written bydaftpunk278 June 30, 2013


Life As A House is a tough movie to review, simply because of the sex and drug aspect of it coinciding with an extremely positive message! Either way, I love this movie to death (it's one of my all-time favorite movies), and I watch it whenever I need a little pick-me-up or just want to watch a good movie. Hayden Christensen stars as Sam Monroe, a 16 year-old drug addict who dyed part of his hair blue. He lives with his mother, Robin Kimball (Kristin Scott Thomas), and uninterested, unaffectionate stepfather, Peter Kimball (Jamey Sheridan), but his life turns around for the good when his real father, George Monroe (Kevin Kline), insists on taking him for the summer. His father has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and wants to tear down his run-down "house" and build a new one. Sam has not talked to or cared about his father for years. As much as Sam does not want to go, his mother makes him. Sam needs money to pay back a friend, Josh (Ian Somerhalder), for the drugs he bought from him, so he turns to a prostitution attempt only once. Nothing is seen except for Sam getting into the car and, when caught by the cops, running away with his pants down. However, he is wearing long boxers, so it's really not anything to be concerned about. Sam meets Alyssa (Jena Malone), in which he shares a brief shower scene with, however, nothing below their necks are shown. They make out shortly, and the scene changes. Over time, Sam becomes clean of drugs, takes out his piercings, stops wearing freaky makeup, and dresses normally, instead of spiky, dark things. He becomes a much happier person, helping his father build the house. He enlists the help of Alyssa with the house. Alyssa later enlists Josh and some other professional workers. Sam's mother and half-brothers help out, too, and, even later, his step-father. George also reconnects with Robin, and they kiss for a short period of time. When Sam finds out his father has terminal cancer, he relies on Alyssa to comfort him. They sleep together, but nothing more. No kissing, no sex. After George collapses in his garage, Sam strings Christmas lights around the entire new house so George can see it from his hospital room window. Sam finishes the house, while his mother stays with George in the hospital. Soon after, George dies. When Robin informs him of this, he breaks down and cries. In one of the scenes, George tells Sam about how his father had hurt a little girl in a car crash twenty-nine years ago. He says he thinks about her all the time, about what her life must be like now. The happy ending in this movie is that when George dies and Sam finishes the house, Sam decides to give the house to the now-full-grown little girl in the car crash, who is living in a trailer park. George's last line, a voice-over in the final scene overlooking the house, is said to Sam : "I always thought of myself as a house. I was always what I lived in. It didn't need to be big; it didn't even need to be beautiful; it just needed to be mine. I became what I was meant to be. I built myself a life... I built myself a house. Twenty-nine years ago, my father crossed a double line. Changed my life and the life of a little girl forever with that mistake. I can't stop thinking about her. With every crash of every wave, I hear something now. I never listened before. I'm on the edge of a cliff, listening. Almost finished. If you were a house , Sam, this is where you would want to be built: on rock, facing the sea. Listening. Listening." Another thing you should take note of with this movie is a short sex scene between Josh and Alyssa's mother, Colleen Beck (Mary Steenburgen). No body parts are seen except for the two under the covers. However, like I said, it is short, and you can easily fast-forward through it. There is language, but it is used in a way where it is powerful and adds to the emotion of the movie. Overall, this is an exceptional, terrific, fantastic, wonderful, awesome, amazing movie! Like I said earlier, it is one of my favorite movies of all time. It brings me to tears every time I watch it. As for why I said you should pause for kids 12 & under, you should definitely know your child and the amount of sexual and drug scenes they can handle. However, I tried to explain it the best I could, that the so-called "inappropriate" scenes in this movie are really nothing to worry about, as they are all short, and nothing is ever seen. DO NOT worry about the fact that this movie is rated R. I think that is a ridiculous rating - there is nothing R-rated about this movie. It should most definitely be PG-13. Like I said, I love this movie, and I definitely recommend it to everyone ages 9 & above. This is a must-see movie for everyone - it is fantastic! P.S. It's soundtrack is just as fantastic as the movie! :-)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 16 years old Written byem4800 April 9, 2008


I found this movie to be one of the most inspiring films I have ever watched. I think that, even though it deals with some sketchy subjects, every teenager in America should be exposed to this film. It took me out of my egocentric teenage world for a while and made me feel a whole new level of apreciation for my parents and loved ones. The film was incredible.
Teen, 14 years old Written byNice to meet you April 13, 2014

This Movie is Worth it!

This movie is just... breathtaking. It is a heart trenching tale of a man who saves his family by building a house. This movie is one R that you have to let your kids see. There is a some R rated stuff, but this movie is so extraordinary that you would agree that it is worth watching. There is a allot of drug stuff, some F words, sex (but it really does not show anything, it is a quick scene so you can just have your kids walk out of a moment) but nothing too scaring.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking