Lullaby

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Lullaby Movie Poster Image
Family reunites for dying dad in warm drama; some swearing.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 117 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

It's difficult, but possible, to face death on your own terms. Two cancer patients -- one a wealthy father who's lived a full life, the other a teen girl who's barely experienced life -- show how to recognize the inevitable and make the most of their final days.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jonathan has been estranged from his father for years but is willing to reconcile when he realizes that his dad is sick and on the verge of death. Both of them show humility and love as they discuss how they've wronged each other and why they're wiling to make up.

Violence

Family members bicker and squabble. A man puts his fist through a door during a heated moment.

Sex

Two exes briefly discuss their past relationship. A group of children afflicted with cancer discusses whether they'll get to have sex before they die. A 17-year-old girl kisses a guy during a tender but wistful moment.

Language

Frequent strong language includes "f--," "s--t," "d--k," "bitch," "hell," and more.

Consumerism

One character uses a Mac laptop.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The very first scene opens with a close-up of the main character smoking a cigarette, and he has many more throughout the film. Another character, a 17-year-old girl dying of cancer, also smokes regularly. A family drinks wine at a celebratory meal, and two characters drink whisky together during a stressful moment of bonding. Two women do drugs in the back of a limousine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lullaby is a family drama centered on a dying patriarch who's decided to be taken off life support, over the objections of his wife and adult children. There are some intense arguments as they hash out old conflicts, but also some tender moments as they find ways to reconcile. Expect a good deal of swearing (including "f--k," "s--t," and more), some drinking, and a scene of drug use, as well as many scenes that show the main character (and another) smoking cigarettes. His nicotine addiction is actually a minor plot point. Characters also kiss and talk about sex, but there's nothing graphic.

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What's the story?

Jonathan (Garrett Hedlund), who's returning to New York to visit his dying father, is taken aback when he learns that Dad (Richard Jenkins) has requested to be removed from life-support machines the next morning. It's a decision that sends everyone reeling, prompting them to examine their relationships with the family's patriarch and one another. And it allows one last day for Robert, his sister, and their mother to hash out plenty of old family conflicts and say their goodbyes.

Is it any good?

It may, in fact, be impossible for Richard Jenkins to play a false note; he is superb here. The immensely talented and often underrated actor plays a dying father who adores his family but has also managed to alienate them many times over. He's a cauldron of pride, pathos, and disappointment as he reflects on what he has achieved, all while remaining relatable, too.

But the story actually centers on Jonathan, not his dad, and Hedlund unfortunately pales in comparison to Jenkins. While Jonathan is supposed to come to terms with his family, Hedlund seems stiff (some of which can be attributed to the character, but not all) -- he's good with the anger and frustration but not the thoughtful reckoning. Still, the film's message is potent: Families are messy and lovely, and farewells to them are even more so.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what Lullaby is saying about families. What's the main takeaway? Are the characters and their interactions realistic/believable? What would a movie about your family be like?

  • How is Robert's situation differ from that of Meredith, another terminally ill patient? How do they both face the fact that they're dying?

  • What do you think about Robert's decision to be taken off of life support? Is his family supportive? Do they eventually change their mind?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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