A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is careful not make Dahmer admirable, but it doesn't use him to shock, either; it tries to find out who he really was and where his pain may have come from. In a way, the movie uses empathy to try to understand him and show where things might have gone wrong.
Positive Role Models
Despite the movie's intelligence and understanding, it doesn't offer any truly admirable characters. They're all deeply troubled and/or make mistakes. Characters also make fun of a man with cerebral palsy.
Violence & Scariness
Dead animals and "roadkill"; sliced-up animal. Animals soak in acid-filled jars. Fish hacked up with a knife. A man cuts his hand with a knife and sucks the blood. Gun shown. Main character holds a baseball bat in a threatening way. Arguing parents.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Character masturbates, his back to the camera. Teen boys look at a topless woman in a magazine. Brief but strong sexual innuendo. Main character gets a physical at the doctor's; he takes off his clothes, but nothing sensitive is shown.
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A few uses of "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "f--got," "crap," and "freak," plus "Jesus" (as an exclamation).
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Products & Purchases
Teens briefly seen wearing Adidas and Nike brand clothes.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens smoke pot. Main teen character drinks to excess in more than one scene. Adults smoke.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that My Friend Dahmer is a drama based on a graphic novel about the author's real-life experiences in high school with future serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Although Dahmer is played by Disney star Ross Lynch, it's not appropriate for young fans of his show Austin & Ally. Several dead animals are seen -- some "roadkill" and some deliberately sliced open. A gun is shown, and a man slices his hand with a knife and sucks the blood. The main character struggles with his sexual identity; when he removes his clothes during a doctor's visit, there's some awkwardness. He also masturbates with his back to the camera. A magazine photo of a topless woman is seen, and there's brief but strong sexual innuendo. Words like "f--k," "s--t," and "f----t" are used a few times, and teens smoke pot and drink alcohol to excess. Adults smoke cigarettes. Dahmer isn't presented as admirable in any way, and the film is intelligent and balanced and appears to be searching for understanding. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Written and directed by Marc Meyers, this biographical drama walks a fine line between ridicule and morbidity but maintains a humane balance, exploring a disturbed character in an empathetic way. In My Friend Dahmer, Lynch (best known for his Disney Channel show Austin & Ally) hides behind a mop of hair and huge, clunky glasses, walking stiffly and clenched, as if afraid of the very air itself. He gives a strong performance, finding the hurt, fear, frustration, and power that drives Dahmer to his ultimate fate.
The film's 1970s production design is incredibly effective, tapping into the era's uneasy meeting of establishment (Neil Sedaka) and rebellion (the Ramones). Adapted from a graphic novel written by the real-life Derf, the movie doesn't really capitalize on the "my friend" portion of the story. The focus is on Dahmer, and the character of Derf nicely avoids becoming a typical passive, observing "writer" character; he's more of a catalyst. Meyers also avoids cutesy attempts to tie the movie into its graphic-novel origins; there are no weird effects or comic panels. It's an unusual movie, but every effort goes into finding a legitimate center.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.