Mermaids Movie Poster Image

Mermaids

'90s coming-of-age tale has sex, drinking, cursing.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1990
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

No real positive messages. 

Positive role models

The mother in the movie skips town with her two daughters pretty much whenever she feels like it, taking them to their next home simply by closing her eyes and pointing at a map of the United States. The teen daughter, raised Jewish, is obsessed with Catholicism and frequently prays whenever she has what she calls "impure thoughts" for the 26-year-old caretaker of a nearby convent, and even goes on a fast in an effort to atone for kissing the older man; she later has sex with him in the bell tower of the convent. 

Violence

Kate falls off a small waterfall and nearly drowns. The death of President Kennedy is described in detail. Rachel slaps Charlotte. Statutory rape when a 26-year-old man has sex with a teen girl.

Sex

A 15-year-old girl, in a series of voiceovers, talks of her sexual desire of a 26-year-old man who drives the school bus. They later kiss and have sex in a bell tower of the convent where the man works as a caretaker; no nudity, but clothes removed, and a close-up of her undoing his belt. The mother has sex with her boss in his car -- this is shown from the outside of the bouncing car, then inside as they talk of sex and their relationship in the backseat with their clothes on. The mother and her new boyfriend are shown in bed shortly after having sex; it's their first date. In the bathroom of a high school, a girl tells her friends of how she performed oral sex on a boy while on a date. A teen thinks she is pregnant from kissing.

Language

Regular profanity, most often said by the mother: "bitch," "a--holes," "piss," "goddamn," "hell," "for Christ's sake." In the girls' restroom, a girl tells her friends about oral sex. 

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A 15-year-old girl drinks wine, then pours some for her 8-year-old sister; they then sit next to each other on the front porch, hiccupping and slurring their speech. Adults drink scotch, wine, and champagne on dates, at holiday dinners, at a New Year's Eve party. They only appear drunk during the New Year's Eve party. Cigarette smoking, including a scene in which teen girls smoke in the high school restroom. 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Mermaids is a 1990 coming-of-age movie about a 15-year-old's sexual awakenings in 1963, and the difficult relationship she has with her free-spirited mother. This teen, a Jewish girl obsessed with Catholicism, frequently discusses her sexual desire for her 26-year-old bus driver who is also the caretaker of a nearby convent; they eventually have sex, an act that amounts to statutory rape. The single mother regularly moves her two daughters from town to town whenever she feels confined, gets bored, and/or it's time to break up with her latest boyfriend; she has sex in a car with her married boss (the car shown from the outside bouncing while she's in the backseat with her boss), and is shown in the moments after sex with her newest boyfriend. Teen girls smoke cigarettes and listen as a girl talks of performing oral sex on a boy while on a date. There are also some intense moments, including scenes of the town's devastated reaction to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and a scene in which a young girl falls into a river and starts drowning. The 15-year-old also believes she is pregnant after kissing the older man, and even goes to the gynecologist to confirm this; the gynecologist has to be the one to tell her how babies are made. Regular mild profanity. Adults drink in social situations. The teen girl drinks wine and shares some with her 8-year-old sister; they then hiccup and slur their speech. 

What's the story?

In the enchanting and complex coming-of-age story MERMAIDS, Charlotte Flax (Winona Ryder), the nun-obsessed daughter of a Jewish mother. Mrs. Flax (Cher) is gutsy, creative, and enchanting -- and when things go poorly with her paramour, she skips town, preferring to start a new life in a new town. That's how the family ends up in Massachusetts, where Charlotte meets Joe (Michael Schoeffling), the resident of a convent. While she decides what to do about Joe, she copes with feelings about her absent father and spars with her strong-willed, promiscuous mom. Missteps and teen-sized mistakes ensue.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Not only is Ryder's powerhouse performance spot-on and moving -- when she cries at the end of the film, the viewer is likely to, too. Mermaids isn't the one-note sex comedy of American Pie or the inspirational drama of Gracie. It's a film that turns the most painful years of many people's lives into entertainment -- realistic, sympathetic entertainment.

Charlotte has an inner monologue that's completely different from the one she shares with the world. In her head, she's thinking, "I kissed a boy and I think I might be pregnant." But when Mrs. Flax begs her to talk, all she can do is shrug and roll her eyes. What parents and teens won't be able to relate to this? Add on the fabulous performances of Bob Hoskins and Christina Ricci and you have an adorable and moving coming-of-age movie that's likely to be as prescient today.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about coming-of-age movies. How is this movie similar to and different from other movies in which teenagers experience their first forays into adulthood? 

  • This movie was based on a book. What would be the challenges in adapting a novel into a movie? How does the movie attempt to convey the innermost thoughts and feelings of the lead character? 

  • How does this movie address topics like family, religion, sex, relationships, and growing up? How would the movie be different had it been set in current times?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 25, 1990
DVD/Streaming release date:February 6, 2001
Cast:Cher, Christina Ricci, Winona Ryder
Director:Richard Benjamin
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Drama
Topics:Book characters, High school, History, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

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Parent of a 12 and 15 year old Written byexitedreviewer February 20, 2015

What a great coming-of-age!

This movie deals with sex, but not in a "sexual" way, if that makes any sense. It's not trying to be "sexy" but, it deals with a young teen's awakening sexuality. I watched this movie with my 14-year old and we both loved it. The reason I say that this should be watched by 13 and up is because most girls under that age will not understand or relate to the movie. Every teen at 13 or above is going through some of the issues concerning their sexuality that the teen in this movie is experiencing. Some of the scenes may be awkward to watch with a younger kid, but I would feel completely comfortable watching this with a teen. Also, some mild swearing. I highly reccomend "Mermaids"
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Parent of a 13 year old Written bydramaqueen@hotm... January 24, 2013

good movie just not for kids.

its a very good movie uh well maybe for tweens and teens because i don't think kids will understand this movie. all in all its a great movie but like i said kids might not understand it. but if your a tween or a teen than its alright to watch.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bywonder dove March 15, 2015

A Favourite!

Mermaids is one of my all time favourite coming of age 90's movies! Didn't really care for it as a teen, but now it's at the top of my list! Awesome cast includes Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci, Cher, Bob Hoskins and Michael Schoeffling. Fantastic acting by these few favorite actors of mine and very underrated! It's set in the sixties and covers everything from mother daughter relationships to dating, to first loves to parenting and plenty of ups and downs in between, including the assassination of president JFK. It's a story about finding your way and making mistakes and bad decisions along the way. Sometimes you have to jump through hoops just to get there. It's very real and human story that deals with realistic topics, but it's also fun and engaging. If I haven't seen it for a couple months, I'll watch it several times throughout the week to get my fix! I just love it and the humor throughout is really nice touch. The cover may seem it's a good family movie but it's not recommended for teens under 13. Language has uses of sh*t, b*tch, @ss, asshole, d@mn, hell, godd@mn. Violence is pretty tame but includes the death of president JFK not shown but described, a child falls into water and nearly drowns, a woman slaps her daughter in the face during a huge argument, some other arguments throughout. Sexual content includes a man cheating on his wife with another woman, we see a car rocking back and forth and sex is implied. A teen is confused about sex and often imagines doing things with her crush (out loud, sometimes graphic but not explicit) who is 11 years older. A teen thinks she's pregnant but is still a virgin. A teen often wonders if nuns where underwear in the shower. A woman kisses her daughters crush. A woman goes to bed with a man on the first date, it's talked about and they're seen in bed partially clothed. A teen has sex for the first time (unprotected) and there's some fast paced groping and clothes removed but no nudity, this happens for about 10-15 seconds. A woman appears promiscuous and talks about how she got pregnant with her kids with two different men. Some tight clothes worn throughout. Bath & shower scenes with no nudity. There's smoking throughout, some drinking, a teen and her child sister get drunk together. Religious stuff throughout. 13++ viewers!!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking