Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Peel Movie Poster Image
Offbeat coming-of-age tale has cursing, drinking, drugs.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 101 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Strongly promotes forgiveness, acceptance of differences, empathy, unconditional love. A single, honest individual with strong sense of right and wrong can generate positive change. "Family" is a multifaceted concept; can be made up of non-biologically related folks who choose one another.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite limitations, leading character is honest, compassionate, forgiving, grateful, persevering, open-hearted. Villains who seem to be manipulative, exploitive, unscrupulous can be redeemed. A gay character is a positive influence on the story. Some ethnic diversity, including a bizarre, comical Latino man.


Two slaps. An anguished young man wrecks the contents of his bedroom.


Multiple conversations about and references to sex (virginity, "hooking up" with sexy women, gay men). A man finds a young woman in bed with a man. Peeing in a swimming pool.


Profanity and swearing: "Jesus Christ," "f--k," "blow job," "d--k," "p---y," "s--t," "ass," "goddamn," "penis party." Some slurs about mental deficiency: "imbecile," "retarded," "idiot." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking, drunkenness in several scenes. Characters smoke marijuana. An addict uses hard drugs. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Peel is a drama -- with many comic moments -- about a young man of limited mental capacity as he attempts to negotiate life after the death of his protective mother. The movie is a coming-of-age story with a quirky cast of characters, an unusual trajectory, and a kindhearted message at its core. Viewers can expect some sad moments (spoiler alert: death and abandonment), as well as scenes with heightened family conflict. Alcohol consumption and drug use are integral to the story. One character struggles with addiction and uses hard drugs on-camera. Marijuana is smoked. An alcohol-fueled party results in drunkenness; alcohol consumption is shown in many scenes. Language is frequently coarse (e.g., "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "penis party"), with some slurs directed at people who are mentally challenged ("imbecile," "retarded," "idiot"). There are sexual references. A young man discovers a couple in bed making love (no sexual activity or nudity shown). A gay character is portrayed positively. Strong on messages and intriguing characters, the film is fine for mature teens and may spark some thoughtful conversation. 

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What's the story?

Abandoned by his dad and two older brothers as a 5-year-old in Alabama, PEEL (Emile Hirsch) loses his beloved mom (Amy Brennaman) more than two decades later. Intellectually challenged, and having been sheltered from the world by his mother, Peel finds himself alone for the first time. Though he's been left the house and a little money, Peel discovers that he needs to find renters to make ends meet. Enter Roy (Jack Kesy) and Chuck (Jacob Vargas), two ne'er-do-well racetrack degenerates who know a soft touch when they meet him; and Chad (Garrett Clayton), a kind-hearted gay student. Roy and Chuck initially have fun at Peel's expense, introducing him to drinking, partying, and girls. Chad agrees to help Peel find the brothers he's never stopped missing. Once Will (Troy Hall) and Sam (Shiloh Fernandez) are located, Roy takes Peel to both Georgia and Mississippi to meet them. Peel's unexpected appearance upsets the status quo, and the two brothers, now estranged, must face emotions long repressed. Though Peel wants nothing more than a family to love, the odds are long that it will come to pass.

Is it any good?

It's not a movie for everyone, but for folks who like a character-rich, satisfying drama about family, forgiveness, and unconditional love, it's an offbeat charmer. Emile Hirsch does a nice job with a difficult role. It's hard to deliver the emotional goods when the character must appear to be clueless; Hirsch/Peel surprises more than once. And, just when audiences think they know where the story is going and worry that the "fragile" underdog will become a victim, Peel goes in an entirely new, and not unwelcome, direction. Kudos to director Rafael Monserrate and his team, who worked on a low budget and still delivered a likable, contemporary fairy tale.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the portrayal of drugs and alcohol in Peel. Are there consequences in the movie for using drugs or drunkenness? Why do consequences matter, especially for young audiences? 

  • In what ways did Peel's innocence and straightforwardness impact the other characters in the film? How did you feel about Roy and Chuck early in the film? Were you surprised by their unexpected behavior? 

  • What message is this film delivering about goodness? About forgiveness? About unconditional love?

Movie details

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