Louder Than Words

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Louder Than Words Movie Poster Image
Earnest family drama about coping with tragedy is very sad.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 95 minutes

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Kids say

age 13+
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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The film explores the variety of ways in which people cope with grief. It also encourages open communication within a family and provides an example of turning tragic circumstances into positive action. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each member of an "almost perfect" family, shattered by an unexpected death, tries to deal with his or her emotions and support one another. Focus is on the parents, one of whom has a much harder time but finally finds his way. Medical personnel are portrayed positively. The film is set in a wealthy community; the characters lack ethnic diversity, and there's some stereotyping to characterize the rich and powerful. 

Violence

The film's story centers on a family dealing with a child's death. A distraught woman loses her temper and throws dishes to the floor.

Sex

A married couple kisses and shares some passionate embraces in their bedroom. A young woman is briefly seen in bed with a man previously mentioned as a "boyfriend."

Language

Occasional swearing includes "crap," "hell," "bastard," "Jesus" (as an exclamation), "pissed off," "screw," and one use of "f--k." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine and beer in social settings in several scenes. College-aged kids smoke throughout the movie and drink beer in their home in one instance.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Louder Than Words is a film about grief and remaking a family after a tragedy -- in this case, the death of a child. Given that subject matter, the film is likely best for teens or mature tweens. Attempts are made to lighten the heavy themes and unmistakable messages -- using sunny flashbacks and voice-over narration, as well as a positive outcome -- but sadness is the prevailing emotion. Many scenes take place in a hospital, turning from bleak to hopeless in grim surroundings. Occasional swearing is heard (i.e., "pissed," "crap," "hell," plus one use of "f--k"), a married couple kisses and passionately embraces in their bedroom, and a young woman is glimpsed in bed with a boyfriend. Characters (including three college-aged kids) drink alcoholic beverages in many social settings, but there's no drunkenness; the young people also smoke cigarettes. 

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What's the story?

At 13, Maria Fareri (Olivia Steele-Falconer) considers herself "the glue" of her well-to-do family. Everyone, including her older triplet half-siblings, as well as her mom and dad, counts on her spirit and her love. So when Maria is stricken with a mysterious illness just after the three older kids leave for college, the family is devastated. It quickly becomes clear that she can't be saved; Maria dies with her family at her bedside in a crowded, cheerless hospital. The tragedy finds each of Maria's family members desperately trying to deal with his or her own grief. Dad John (David Duchovny) and mom Brenda (Hope Davis) forget how to connect with one another, and the siblings lose their way as well. Uncommunicative and isolated, John envisions a memorial to his beloved daughter: He wants to build a children's hospital in Maria's name, one that will offer kids and families bright surroundings and pleasurable experiences despite its disheartening purpose. It's only when the family reunites to help John realize his vision that they find a chance to renew their strong bond and accomplish a small miracle.

Is it any good?

Sad much of the time, uplifting in a few victorious moments, this movie is OK viewing for families and teens. It's difficult for one film to capture the emotional journey of five family members, as well as tell the story of the dad's quest to build a hospital in memory of his daughter. And when the filmmakers also attempt to provide a meaningful portrayal of the child who dies, some things are sure to be given short shrift. No one can fault the film's intent or the effort of director Anthony Fabian, his screenwriter, and the actors involved. There are very touching moments, sincere suggestions of the gradual resurgence of life in a family after the tragedy, and a lovely, heartfelt performance by Davis.

But too much is expected. LOUDER THAN WORDS barely registers the complex feelings of the family's three college-aged kids, and the inclusion of repetitive fund-raising efforts on behalf "Maria's" hospital feels extraneous and obvious. Much surer hands were needed to give this movie the spirit and heft the filmmakers wanted it to have.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Louder Than Words uses flashbacks and voice-over narration to reveal Maria's character. Why do you think the filmmakers chose these techniques? Were they successful?

  • This movie has a twofold purpose: to watch the Fareri family coming back together after Maria's death and to detail the origins of The Maria Fareri Children's Hospital. Do you think the two parts were tied together effectively? Why or why not?

  • What does the title Louder Than Words mean in this story? Talk about the specific examples that the filmmakers use to demonstrate the title's meaning.

Movie details

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