Want more recommendations for your family?
Sign up for our weekly newsletter for entertainment inspiration
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
At the center of the violent, vengeance-fueled story is a good deed that promotes the idea of helping someone in need. Like many Westerns, this one discusses the nature of violence to some degree; once it's indulged in, it becomes impossible to escape. It's a pessimistic message, but also possibly a helpful one.
Positive Role Models
Despite his violent past, Henry is a pretty cool character; every move he makes is designed to try to protect his son and to do the right thing. He's incredibly skilled and intuitive. Of course, violence is his ultimate (if reluctant) solution, and he becomes a somewhat tragic figure. Though (without giving anything away) his character inspires many to emulate him, in reality this isn't a wise move.
Almost every character is a White male, with the exception of a Mexican tracker. And he's portrayed in a way that's common for the Western genre and is drawn from stereotype -- i.e. he's more in touch with nature than his White colleagues and able to read the land. He's also a secondary character who doesn't have much effect on the way the story flows.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Strong violence, with guns and shooting. Knife/stabbing. Characters are shot (in the head, eye, etc.) and killed. A teen shoots a gun for target practice then in a shootout. Bloody injuries, blood stains/smears, blood spurts. One character stomps on another's wounded leg. Character with rope around neck dragged by horse. People strangled/choked to death and hung with rope. Axe to chest. Digging bullet out of bloody wound. Character hit with rifle butt. Farmer guts a pig. Human corpse fed to pigs. Struggling, fighting, punching. Teen slapped. Adult tied up. Knife shown. House on fire. Threats.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sporadic use of "f--k," "s--t," "c---sucker," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "ass," "goddamn," "damn," "hell," "stupid," "worthless."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Character is given whiskey to ease his pain during bullet extraction.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Old Henry is a small-scale, classical Western starring Tim Blake Nelson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) as a farmer/single father whose old gunfighting skills come out of retirement when he saves a wounded stranger. While there's no sex and drinking is limited to a man being given whiskey to ease the pain of a bullet extraction, there's some pretty intense violence, with heavy guns and shooting, stabbing/slicing with knives, bloody wounds and blood spurts, characters being shot and killed, fighting, and other shocking/unpleasant scenes. A teen boy shoots a gun. Sporadic language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "son of a bitch," "bastard," and more. The movie is well-constructed and well-told and highly recommended to mature Western fans. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
A well-cast Nelson is at the center of this classically built Western, which uses well-defined spaces to explore themes of violence, risk, and caution, as well as packing a surprising wallop. Old Henry opens with Henry's narration, and it's hard not to recall Nelson in as Buster Scruggs in the opening segment of Joel and Ethan Coen's anthology Western The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, narrating with a cheerful bounce and twinkle and singing songs. But aside from also being a gunfighter, Nelson's character here couldn't be more different. Henry is nervy and paranoid and "ended up" being a farmer, as if he deserved nothing else. His every thought and move is about controlling and protecting, even though his appearance suggests the opposite. He looks small and gaunt, with stringy hair and an unbecoming snaggletooth. (Looks can be deceiving.)
Writer/director Potsy Ponciroli does an excellent job of placing Henry and the other characters in the movie's landscape. Almost all the action takes place at the farmhouse, with Henry peering at a grassy hill, waiting for intruders to appear over the crest. The moment Henry realizes that they're going to have company, the camera tracks backward, leaving him small and vulnerable in the open. Henry's relationship with Wyatt, who's impetuous and adventurous, and his juxtaposition with Curry (handsome and tricky), provide more drama and friction inside the house. Truth be told, most good Westerns of the last century have already broached all these subjects, and Old Henry really doesn't add anything new, but it's so well made that they're worth experiencing again.
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.