Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
LUV Movie Poster Image
Gritty drama follows young boy exposed to violence, drugs.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 94 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Woody's uncle Vincent promises to teach him what it means to be a man, but the lessons in real life soon turn unpleasant. Woody learns that, for an ex-con, real life sometimes means encounters with violent drug dealers, old girlfriends who've moved on, and old friends who might not be as helpful as they claim.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Vincent initially seems like a great uncle, taking Woody along for an exciting day of grown-up activities. But the lessons eventually turn dark as the two are dragged into very adult situations, making viewers question Vincent's judgment in letting a child participate in potentially deadly activities.


A young boy is exposed to drug deals, violent beatings, and murder while tagging along with his adult uncle. They're threatened at gunpoint at one point, and he's forced to pick up a pistol during another deal gone awry; his uncle berates him afterward for freezing during the conflict.


An adult tries to give his young nephew some tips on flirting with women.


Frequent swearing, with "f--k" and "s--t" in almost every sentence. African Americans frequently refer to each other using the "N" word.


The main characters spend the day running errands in a fancy Mercedes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink beer during a meal, and they offer one to a young boy. Several scenes feature drug dealers arranging transactions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that LUV is a gritty drama that follows a young boy who spends the day tagging along with his fresh-out-of-prison uncle, who's at risk of being pulled back into the underworld. The boy is exposed to several violent encounters with drug dealers and is repeatedly threatened at gunpoint, all of which can be very distressing to watch. Expect plenty of additional violence and rough language (including "f--k" and the "N" word), as well as some drinking and drug content/references.

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What's the story?

Eleven-year-old Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.) tags along for the day with his Uncle Vincent (Common), who promises to teach him what it means to be a man. Fresh out of prison, Vincent is trying to set up a business, but his legitimate options appear increasingly limited when the bank turns down his loan application. In need of fast cash, the ex-con is pulled back into the world of drugs and guns, with young Woody in tow. During the course of an increasingly intense day, the duo is threatened at gunpoint several times and involved in a drug deal that blows up; several people are left dead and bloody. Woody definitely gets some important lessons, though they may not be the kind that his uncle had in mind.

Is it any good?

LUV is a gritty look at Baltimore's underworld, seen through the eyes of a young boy who quickly grows up during one bad day. Common is charismatic as the ex-con who gradually reveals a dark side; eventually it becomes clear why he went away and why there are people who aren't happy to see him back. Rainey is even better as they boy who hero worships his uncle and slowly starts to realize that even the coolest grown-ups have flaws -- and Vincent has some big ones.

But LUV is also disturbing, as the boy is drawn into very adult situations. Viewers can blame Vincent for dragging his nephew along, clearly a very poor decision, or they might question the entire premise: Would anyone really be that foolish? And would young Woody really be able to rise to the occasion, as he's required to do more than once? The story sometimes seems just a step too far-fetched. It's unpleasant to see a child in danger, and it's not completely believable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how LUV depicts Woody and Vincent's day. Do their experiences and the people they meet seem realistic? Do you think things like this happen in real life?

  • What is Vincent trying to teach Woody during the film? Do you think these are appropriate lessons for a young boy?

  • Talk about Vincent's choices. Why do you think he went to prison, and what is he trying to accomplish now?

Movie details

  • In theaters: January 18, 2013
  • On DVD or streaming: April 2, 2013
  • Cast: Common, Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert
  • Director: Sheldon Candis
  • Studio: Indomina
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 94 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: violence, language, child endangerment and some drug content
  • Last updated: September 21, 2019

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