Ma

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Ma Movie Poster Image
Tons of language, blood, teen drinking in so-so thriller.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 15 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The teen characters suffer indirect consequences for underage drinking -- but they're more clearly punished for trusting the wrong adult.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some of the teens seem somewhat responsible. One stays sober so he can drive, and main character Maggie tries to respect her mother and follow the rules of the house -- but not always. The rest are largely irresponsible. As for the adults, Sue Ann is unstable, and the rest are shown as generally unhappy, wrecked versions of their teen selves.

Violence

Truck mows down a jogger; the body is jolted and smashed. Bloody corpse shown. Wrist-slicing, with gushing blood. Torture includes lips being sewn shut, burning with a hot iron, hitting with the edge of an iron, stabbing with a knife. Gun is drawn and pointed threateningly. Someone is shot, with bloody trail on floor. Hitting with frying pan. Building on fire. Grabbing, threatening. Jump scare. (Spoiler alert) A character seeks revenge related to a public humiliation involving a sex act that she didn't intend to be part of.

Sex

Brief shot of a woman grabbing a naked penis. Character receives implied oral sex in a car; also suggestion of unseen oral sex in a dark closet. A male teen undresses; his naked bottom is shown. Kissing -- between teens and between a teen and an adult. Teens are said to be having sex in a bathroom. Adult character wears a revealing outfit in a casino.

Language

Extremely strong, constant language includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "p---y," "c--t," "a--hole," "t-ts," "bitch," "hell," "goddamn," "d--k," "crap," "piss," "loser," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). Middle-finger gestures.

Consumerism

Coke shown and mentioned. U-Haul truck shown. iPhones and Facebook used. Fireball whiskey mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent teen drinking, sometimes to point of being staggering drunk, passing out. Teen pot smoking, vaping. Characters are unknowingly drugged by the villain.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ma is a thriller with horror elements about a woman (Octavia Spencer) who offers to let teens party and drink in her house ... but it turns out she has some pretty dark secrets. Expect extremely mature content on all fronts. Teens and others are tortured in various ways (lips sewn shut, burned with an iron, etc.), a character is shot, and there's plenty of blood, as well as a jump scare or two. Nudity includes brief glimpses of a penis and a naked bottom. Oral sex is strongly implied, teens kiss passionately, a teen kisses an adult, and teen sex is mentioned. Language is constant, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," and more. Teens drink throughout, sometimes getting drunk and passing out. They also smoke pot and vape, and characters are unknowingly drugged by the villain.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byaaaFR3E June 23, 2019
Parent of a 16-year-old Written byellen3000 June 14, 2019

Great cast, disappointing movie.

I took my 16-year-old daughter to see it and we were looking forward to something similar to Get Out with this excellent cast, but the plot was weak and the mo... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byFelicity878 May 13, 2020

Unless you like violence, this movie might not be good for you

I love horror movies and has always watched violent movies. Since I’m used to violence it wasn’t hard for me to watch but for others it might be really hard sin... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bymurdermystery April 3, 2020

Just Okay....

MA contains plenty of coarse language, drinking and also sex and nudity. Parents should mainly know about the violence and blood.

What's the story?

In MA, Maggie (Diana Silvers) and her mom, Erica (Juliette Lewis), move from the big city back to Erica's small hometown, where she's landed a much-needed job. Maggie quickly makes friends at her school and even finds a nice boyfriend in Andy (Corey Fogelmanis). But with little to do around town, the friends like to spend their free time drinking -- and to do that, they need an adult to buy liquor. They get their wish when Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) comes along. Their first night is ruined after the cops are called, so Sue Ann invites the group to party safely in her basement. Then strange things start happening, and Maggie begins to get a bad feeling, urging her friends not to go back. But Sue Ann has a few dark secrets and isn't willing to give up her new "friends" so easily.

Is it any good?

This so-so thriller goes hard with the mature content (language, blood, drinking, sex) but stays rather sedate in the character department, content to keep Spencer's "Ma" at arm's length. Ma is a strange combination: It's like an edgy, misfit Blumhouse (Get Out, Happy Death Day, etc.) production crossed with the work of director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up), who specializes in safe, message-heavy dramas. Spencer won an Oscar for her work in The Help -- and she's an awesome performer in general (see Fruitvale Station, Snowpiercer, Hidden Figures, The Shape of Water, and more). It's puzzling that she would be interested in Sue Ann, other than the chance to have fun going crazy.

Her character's entire psychology is explained by a simple flashback that's interspersed throughout the story but treated so secretively that it feels like it should have built to more. And her final snap feels preposterous, a huge leap of logic. She winds up a monster, rather than pitiable. The teens are likable enough, though Silvers also appears in the much better Booksmart; it's a far smaller role, but it's so much more vivid than what she has here. And, to rub it in, Lewis' character announces in one scene that she's binging a John Hughes marathon on TV, further reminding us that these characters just don't have much inner life. Overall, Ma isn't terrible, but it feels more like those behind it were enjoying "slumming" in the horror genre, without the kind of dedication it takes to make something truly affecting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Ma depicts teen drinking. Does the movie glamorize drinking? Are there consequences that are a direct result of drinking? Why does that matter?

  • How violent is the movie? Does it feel shocking or thrilling? How does media violence impact kids?

  • How is sex depicted? Are teens responsible? Is there trust? What values are imparted?

  • Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

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