Literally, Right Before Aaron

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Literally, Right Before Aaron Movie Poster Image
Talented cast can't save mature, uneven romantic dramedy.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 105 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

It's hard to discern clear positive messages other than that people don't tend to forget their first true love, and that it's difficult to remain friends with an ex if one person is still pining for the other.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Aside from Allison -- who's intelligent, sensitive, and kind -- there aren't any clear role models in the movie. Adam is hurtful and selfish; Aaron is smarmy.


Adam and Aaron play an aggressive game of tennis, and Adam throws his tennis racket across the court. Adam is hit by a slow-moving car and is shown bloody and limping.


Montage of relationship scenes, including a couple kissing/making out, lying around together, caressing/tickling each other, etc. An engaged/married couple kisses.


Strong language includes "f--k," "a--hole," "douche," "d--k," and "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink at meals and wedding events (rehearsal dinner, reception, etc.). Characters, including the protagonist, overindulge on alcohol throughout the wedding festivities. In a flashback, the main character is shown high on Vicodin. Adults smoke cigarettes and pass around what looks like a joint.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Literally, Right Before Aaron is an indie break-up comedy about a 30-something guy (Justin Long) who agrees to attend his ex-girlfriend's wedding, where he misguidedly attempts to win her back. Co-starring Cobie Smulders, the movie boasts a familiar cast but is unlikely to appeal to middle or high schoolers unless they're die-hard indie film fans. There are flashbacks to a broken-up couple's happier days, including scenes of them making out and lying around together, but nothing graphic. Strong language ("f--k," "s--t," etc.) is peppered throughout the film, usually uttered in frustration or anger, and there are several scenes of adults drinking at dinners/events (sometimes to excess), as well as the main character smoking cigarettes and pot and high on Vicodin. Parents of mature teens who see the film may want to discuss the parameters of consensual behavior, establishing boundaries with exes, and the idea of "the one who got away."

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What's the story?

LITERALLY, RIGHT BEFORE AARON is an "anti-romcom" dramedy about Adam (Justin Long), a 30ish documentary filmmaker from Los Angeles whose life is turned upside-down when Allison (Cobie Smulders), his college sweetheart/ex-girlfriend of eight years, calls to invite him to her upcoming wedding -- to a man she's known for only one year. At first, Adam impulsively decides to propose to his own short-term girlfriend; when she demurs, he immediately breaks up with her. Then, in a fit of nostalgia, he returns to his hometown of San Francisco to attend Allison's wedding -- including the rehearsal dinner -- and to possibly sabotage her nuptials to a smarmy alpha male, Aaron (Ryan Hansen). To seem less pathetic, Adam takes his friend's eccentric cousin (Kristen Schaal) as his date, but he proceeds to act in a cringe-worthy manner.

Is it any good?

Despite being classified as a romantic comedy, this occasionally amusing but mostly unlikable indie is actually an anti-romcom about an irredeemable sad sack who misses the one who got away. There are times that actor Ryan Eggold's directorial debut has a (500) Days of Summer vibe mixed with the Owen Wilson subplot of Meet the Parents -- except that instead of the seemingly perfect man being the ex, here he's the groom, and the seemingly sensitive beta male is the sad and confused ex. Hansen's Aaron is a bit too bro-ish of a Renaissance man to be believable, but he's still somehow more likable than Adam, who does some awful things that make it pretty clear why he's not the one at the altar. If anything, neither male character is portrayed as good enough for Smulders' Allison, who's positively luminous, as well as intelligent and apparently genuinely interested in Adam's welfare (it's unclear exactly why they broke up 18 months earlier).

Aside from Smulders, the best part of the film is the talented but underused supporting cast. There's John Cho as Adam's best friend, Mark; the always-entertaining Schaal as Adam's socially awkward date; Peter Gallagher as the egotistical star of the nature documentaries Adam films; and Luis Guzmán as a catering employee who tries to dole out sage advice during the reception. Lea Thompson and Dana Delany each pop up in a scene as Adam's and Allison's mothers, and it's a shame they aren't in more of the movie. Even though Literally, Right Before Aaron doesn't quite work, Eggolds deserves props for pulling together a great cast and eliciting decent performances; perhaps his next film will be more cohesive.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Literally, Right Before Aaron can be classified as a "romantic comedy." Is there a romantic relationship the audience is rooting for?

  • Do main characters need to be sympathetic or likable? Can a character be one but not the other? How does Adam's behavior affect your ability to relate to him?

  • Are there any role models in the movie? If so, who are they, and what character strengths do they display?

  • How does the movie depict substance use/abuse? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and comedy

Themes & Topics

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