By Nell Minow,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Powerful film packed with profanity and brutality.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Violence & Scariness
Fights, including brutal attack.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Many sexual references, including rape, molestation.
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Very strong language, innumerable F-words.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drug use, references to drinking and other substance abuse.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie has non-stop four-letter words. There are sexual references, including child molestation and rape. There is some violence, including one brief graphic scene that is very brutal. The movie has very strong minority characters and strong bonds between characters of different races.
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Where to Watch
Based on 1 parent review
A well made budget level film about the real struggles of living with mental illness.
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What's the Story?
This documentary-style film about teenagers in a mental hospital focuses on one patient, Lyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). A court sentenced Lyle to the facility because he beat a fellow student with a baseball bat. At first, he is angry and uncooperative. But as he listens to a sympathetic Dr. Monroe (Don Cheadle) and observes the other patients, he begins to allow himself to be open to acknowledging their feelings and his own. Other teen patients include Chad (Michael Bacall ), a bi-polar kid who is Lyle's first friend, fragile Tracey (Zooey Deschanel), shy Kenny (Cody Lightning), and angry Michael (Elden Henson). Dr. Monroe must find a way to make all of them feel accepted for who they are while encouraging them to change.
Is It Any Good?
MANIC has enough sincerity to make up for whatever it lacks in professionalism or originality and is well worth watching with the teenagers in your life. The actors developed their characters through improvisation and cast and crew worked with psychologists and patients to ensure authenticity. The cast includes some former residents of juvenile mental facilities. The portrayals are all so natural and deeply felt that there are moments when it does not even feel like a documentary movie; it feels like we are watching something that is happening right now.
The digital video camera work feels amateurish at first until it becomes clear that it is intentional – there's a spareness and immediacy that works well with its subject. Shaky, off-center shots replicate the fragile reality of the characters. As the movie continues and Lyle is able to encompass a psychological and metaphorical larger picture, the camera pulls back to give us the bigger picture as well. The final shot, the first real long shot we see in the movie, is very moving.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how they handle their angry impulses and what it is that gives their lives meaning. Does it help to have someone say "I'm sorry" even if it isn't the one responsible? Does it help to be the one who says "I'm sorry?"
- In theaters: May 9, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: January 20, 2004
- Cast: Don Cheadle, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
- Director: Jordan Melamed
- Inclusion Information: Black actors
- Studio: IFC Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content, strong language and some drug use
- Last updated: February 24, 2022
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