Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Nostalgia Movie Poster Image
Leisurely, wistful drama about people and their belongings.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 114 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Encourages pondering the concept of all the things we accumulate in a lifetime, from completely useless items to things that mean a lot or could become valuable to things that are extremely personal and irreplaceable, like photos or letters. It also wonders about the current state of digital storage and how easily these things can simply be erased forever. The movie doesn't offer any real opinions or theories on all of this, but it's interesting for both teens and adults to think about.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No one here does anything terribly extraordinary, except perhaps show a little bravery in the face of adversity or offer to help someone who needs help. The characters are mostly ordinary, flawed people who are perhaps suffering just a little more than usual.


A teen girl dies (offscreen), profoundly affecting the lives of her loved ones. Talk of death throughout. A burned building, reduced to ashes, is shown.


Infrequent, but several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t" and uses of "God" (as an exclamation).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of a character being killed by a drunk driver.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nostalgia is a drama that follows several characters as they think about and deal with the belongings of the deceased (and soon-to-be deceased). It includes a teen girl's offscreen death (she's killed by a drunk driver), which profoundly affects those around her. Consequently, there's frequent talk of death. A house is shown burned to ashes. Language is infrequent but includes several uses of "f--k," a few uses of "s--t," and a few uses of "God" (as an exclamation). This is a lovely, dreamy, languid movie; it's perhaps a bit too slow for every taste, but for thoughtful, patient viewers, it's very much worth seeing. Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, and Ellen Burstyn co-star.

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What's the story?

In NOSTALGIA, several characters take stock of their -- and their family's -- personal possessions at the time of death and disaster. An insurance agent (John Ortiz) visits an old man (Bruce Dern) who doesn't seem to care what happens to his stuff; his granddaughter (Amber Tamblyn) would like him to choose something meaningful to leave her. A woman's house burns down, and the only thing she can save is her late husband's prize autographed baseball. The woman, Helen (Ellen Burstyn), takes the ball to a specialist, Will (Jon Hamm), and learns its value. Her son (Nick Offerman) is torn between wanting the ball and wanting his mother's happiness. Then Will visits his sister, Donna (Catherine Keener), to help clean out an attic full of their parents' stuff, but tragedy strikes again.

Is it any good?

This dreamy, languid drama drifts appealingly from character to character, somehow finding profound emotional weight and layers in the relationships between people and their belongings. Written by the talented Alex Ross Perry (The Color Wheel, Listen Up Philip) and directed by former music video maker Mark Pellington, Nostalgia is a fine combination of visuals and content that benefits from asking its very unusual question: What do the things that people leave behind mean? And why do some things mean more than others? How are memories connected? What happens when someone's memories are impermanent?

The great cast helps things along, although the movie is a little uneven. At first, it looks as if Ortiz' insurance man might be a great connective device, something of an angel who helps all the characters in the film; but even though he's quite likable, he disappears early. Some characters get a lot of screen time, while other talented actors -- like James LeGros and Patton Oswalt -- only appear briefly, even though they're all introduced with the same weight. Moreover, the movie sometimes detours off course in an effort to emotionally preload its themes. Nostalgia could have been more balanced, but it could not be more delicate. It's ultimately a moving, lovely effort.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Nostalgia handles violence. How much is actually shown? How closely does the movie deal with death? Is it a scary or unpleasant subject here?

  • What does the movie have to say about the digital age, with peoples' things and media stored in electronic form rather than physical?

  • Have you had a relative or family member die and leave you something? What was it? What do you think it meant to the person? What does it mean to you?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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