Mystic River

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Mystic River Movie Poster Image
Powerful performances in graphic story. Only 16+.
  • R
  • 2003
  • 137 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Violence

Violence and tense scenes, dead body, murders. Tense scenes.

Sex

Sexual references, including child molestation (offscreen).

Language

Very strong language.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

A lot of drinking and smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has graphic violence, including murders. While some of the violence and the child molestation occur off-screen, the depictions are still deeply disturbing. Characters drink and smoke a great deal and use very strong language.

User Reviews

Adult Written byrussp April 9, 2008

I wish I had not watched it.

Had I read CSM's review first I probably would not have gotten it. I got this movie with a free coupon to purchase a previously viewed DVD. The coupon ha... Continue reading
Educator and Parent of a 6 and 8 year old Written byklittle April 9, 2008

Intense Adult Content

Excellent movie: moving, gripping, powerful. Very important and intense social content. Not appropriate for teen viewing unless very mature and when accompani... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bylantio August 18, 2014

Amazing Movie!

I'm 14 and this is one of my all time favourite movies. The implied sexual abuse may be disturbing for some people but I think 13 and over should be able t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byHayden Church July 13, 2012

Clint Eastwood is awesome!!

It's one of Clint Eastwood's best directed films, and a greatly acted film by Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon. The violence in this film is ve... Continue reading

What's the story?

MYSTIC RIVER explores the impact of an unbearable tragedy on two generations in a community bounded by the river of the title. When they were kids, Jimmy, Sean, and Dave were causing mischief when a man posing as a cop told Dave to get in his car. Dave was molested for days until he ran away. As adults, Jimmy (Sean Penn), Dave (Tim Robbins), and Sean (Kevin Bacon) are no longer friends. They're reunited by the murder of Jimmy's daughter Katie (Emmy Rossem). Sean is the detective assigned to the case, Dave and his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) provide comfort and support to Jimmy's family after Katie's death. As Jimmy and Sean both use whatever resources they have to find out what happened to Katie, the past pulls at them. The characters and their stories grow more and more tangled, like strands of seaweed swept by strong current.

Is it any good?

Mystic River has big, serious star power and big, serious themes; there are moments of power and flickers of meaning, but it is ultimately hollow and unsatisfying. A lifetime of history in the same place has all of the characters overlapping, intersecting, and echoing each other's lives. Jimmy and Sean are boyhood friends who ended up on opposite sides. Each struggles in his own way with survivor guilt over not being the one who got in the molester's car and with issues of justice. Each struggles to find meaning after a random, devastating incident. Dave struggles with his sense of himself as the boy who escaped "from the wolves" but who never really escaped.

Director and jazz fan Clint Eastwood plays his big, showy cast like a jazz ensemble. Rossem's brief appearance makes her character's death a wrenching loss. Robbins, Harden, Robbins, Laura Linney, and Penn are each given a moment to step forward and pull out all the stops. The cast delivers in the big moments, but at other times performances feel condescending, as though the actors have to work hard to play characters who are not as smart as they are. At the end it is all about the show, not the substance, and these themes and these stories deserve better.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way that even people who are not directly victims of tragic events can be as haunted by them as those who are.

Movie details

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