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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Women definitely have their own sexual agency. Characters' sexual orientation isn't an issue. In a May-December sexual relationship, ageism isn't an issue.
Positive Role Models
People of all ages, orientations, and types are treated as individuals with feelings, desires, and the power to do what they want. On the downside, nonwhite people are few and far between, even though the movie is presumably set in New York City/Brooklyn.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
The movie's primary subject matter is sex -- e.g., shouldn't you have more of it, with people other than your longtime partner, before getting married -- so that sets the tone. Lots of discussion, including penis size comparison, though without particularly graphic language. Several sex scenes between both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, but most aren't explicit; the most graphic sex scene includes side nudity. But other scenes do include actual nudity, mostly male (including full frontal), with a glimpse of a breast.
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Strong language includes a range of "f--k" variants, plus "c--k," "s--t," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some drinking, including getting drunk; use of mysterious recreational drug with Ecstasy-like effects.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Permission is a mature drama about sexual exploration outside of an existing, committed relationship. So you can expect plenty of sex scenes -- between same-sex and opposite-sex pairs -- some with partial nudity. Other scenes include more graphic nudity (including full-frontal male). The language is similarly adult, with frequent use of words including "f--k," "s--t," etc. Characters drink, sometimes to excess, and use a mysterious recreational drug with Ecstasy-like effects. Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens co-star. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The film wants to dive into the waters of polyamory, but -- like most real couples thinking about it -- it's too timid to do more than dip its toe. Permission is kind of a New York sex comedy à la Woody Allen, but it doesn't feel like New York, the characters don't seem like New Yorkers (both leads are Brits), it's not particularly funny (the film takes itself pretty seriously, despite stabs at humor), and there's none of Allen's wit or insight. The plot movement is predictable (the characters decide to see other people, and the very next scene introduces Viable Option No. 1), and the characters' sexual experiences are depicted with an antiseptic feeling. They're definitely not awful, even when they probably should be; they're also definitely not mind-blowing, even when they probably should be. Compounding this is the lack of chemistry between Hall and Stevens. It's hard to root for them to stick together because, despite Anna and Will insisting that they love each other, we don't see it. We don't feel it. As a couple, they don't feel bonded by anything but history. (And from all indications, he's a lousy lover, so there's that.)
The characters' actions are also pretty mean. They involve other folks in their experiment without full disclosure. When an earnest person falls for one of them, that person is just plain out of luck -- and is treated with utter disdain. Not to mention the foolishness of their idea in the first place, which Reece actually tells them, repeatedly. Reece (who's played by actress/producer Hall's real-life husband), in fact, represents the most immediate presence in the film. He brings some muscular emotion to the role. But the entire B story in which he and Hale contemplate adoption feels extraneous. It's not explored with any depth; the realities of parenting are never considered, and we never see a serious discussion between them. Worst, though, is the film's almost genteel glance at Anna and Will's sexual adventures, especially Anna's. There's nudity, there are unusual locations. But none of it has the visceral power of, say, Shame or Eyes Wide Shut. The fear, the excitement, the eroticism -- none of it is present or accounted for. We're not drawn into the vortex with Anna because the whole exercise feels hesitant. This, on top of yet another depiction of New York in which nearly everyone is lily-white and has spectacular living spaces, sprinkled with forced laughs and unengaging banter. Apart from Spector's performance and a nice turn by Gina Gershon, the most memorable thing about Permission is Adam Bricker's lush, warm-toned cinematography (despite a fall/winter setting), which adds another romantic portrait of New York to the cinematic library.
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.