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Low Tide

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Low Tide Movie Poster Image
Stealing, smoking, drinking in pirate-y teen adventure.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 84 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Viewers may pick up on the fact that ill-gotten money and goods aren't worth the inevitable consequences, but that doesn't seem to be the message of the film -- or apparent to the characters. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

A police sergeant tries to guide teens toward making better decisions. On the downside, teens make iffy choices and behave illegally. Red is a clear example of how "alpha" types with domineering traits compel their friends to do things against their better judgment.

Violence

One person is shot in the face; another is stabbed. In separate instances, a gun and a switchblade are used to intimidate. Attempted drowning. A teen is pummeled in a fistfight until he's unconscious. An ankle breaks on camera.

Sex

A young couple flirts and kisses. Teen boys leer at, make derogatory comments about, and come on to random teen girls. A couple of jokes about male genitalia. Teen boy shown in his underwear.

Language

Strong language includes "a--hole," "bitch," "d--k," "retarded," and recurring use of "f--king" and "s--t." 

Consumerism

Stewart's Root Beer restaurant is a teen hangout.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens bond by smoking pot, drinking liquor. Teens smoke cigarettes throughout film, encourage a younger character to start smoking and drinking. Cuban cigars are depicted as a pleasure of luxury. One teen blows smoke rings; takeaway is that it's cool. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Low Tide is a suspenseful coming-of-age-drama in which unparented teens run amok. In what looks to be the early '90s, Jersey Shore high school seniors burglarize the homes of rich tourists, stealing without conscience. They also smoke (both nicotine and pot) and drink a lot -- to make new friends, to seem grown up, and to look cool. The group's ringleader, Red (Alex Neustaedter), is a menacing local whose father is a rich lawyer, so he thinks he can get away with anything. And while he has an exaggerated, extreme personality, he's also an example of how "alpha" types with domineering traits compel their friends to do things against their better judgment. In one of the break-ins, Alex finds and steals a gun and becomes fascinated by the additional power he feels just by having it. Intermittent violence includes attempted murders with guns, knives, and fists. Strong language ranges from "bitch" and "d--k" to repeated uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Sexual content isn't graphic but includes flirting, kissing, jokes about male genitalia, and a teen boy shown in his underwear.

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What's the story?

In LOW TIDE, it's summer break on the Jersey Shore, where Alan (Keean Johnson) and his buddies burglarize tourists' houses for extra cash. When Alan and his brother, Peter (Jaeden Martell), find a bag of gold coins, they hide it from their friends -- including their controlling, violent ringleader, Red (Alex Neustaedter). 

Is it any good?

Kevin McMullin makes an impressive feature debut in this drama, which cleverly positions teen burglars as modern-day pirates. The "crew" of buddies includes children of seafaring fisherman; one even breaks his leg early on, his cast substituting for a peg leg. Their "captain" -- who's named "Red," no less -- is a cunning, fearsome leader who owns a skiff. He comes from a life of privilege but prefers the sense of power that comes from plunder. The group operates by something similar to a pirate's code: Steal from the rich visitors to their sandy shores, not from the locals. And the story becomes a literal treasure hunt when two brothers discover old, gold doubloons buried under the baseboards of a house they're robbing and decide to keep their treasure a secret. 

The boys justify stealing the booty as not really taking anything from anyone: The homeowner, a wealthy local legend, has passed away, and his land will likely be sold off to developers. But this does bend the morality of the character who's supposed to have a conscience: Alan's young brother Peter, who's initially so righteous that he won't even slip his brother free bait from the fish market where he works. That kind of gray area may translate into subtle messaging to teens that in some situations, bending the rules is OK. But a counter argument is gently inserted. A local cop (Shea Whigham) tries to guide Alan to untether himself from Red by explaining that no one starts out "bad" but may become "bad" after a series of poor decisions. It's a convincing argument, but the question is, will teens hear it over the crashing of Low Tide's waves to take the spoils at any cost?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way teen drinking and smoking are portrayed. Is substance use glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?

  • It's unclear exactly when the movie takes place, but it seems to be the late 1980s or early '90s. Why do you think the filmmaker would set the action in a non-current era and not state it? What's the story advantage to setting a film before smartphones?

  • The sheriff explains how a "good" kid's life can gradually go bad through impulsive decision-making. What did he say? What does that mean? Are teens portrayed realistically in Low Tide?

  • Does Red seem too extreme to be realistic? What if you put him in the light of being a pirate captain like Long John Silver or Blackbeard? Why do you think tales of pirates and buried treasure are so appealing?

Movie details

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