A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes curiosity, compassion, and empathy, as well as self-determination, honest communication, and clear boundaries in relationships.
Positive Role Models
Bella has an infant's brain in a woman's body, and she soaks up new knowledge: scientific, philosophical, anatomical, sexual, spiritual, and more. She develops and gives in to base desires, but she also learns about her place in the world, emotional connections, intimacy, and how individuals can make a difference to those around them. Godwin has a god complex, but he learns to love Bella and appreciate how she's much more than an experiment. Max is loyal, devoted, protective, but not possessive. Duncan is self-centered and jealous.
A few actors of color in supporting roles, including Ramy Youssef, Jerrod Carmichael, and Suzy Bemba, but their race/ethnicity is incidental to the story. Despite her juvenile brain and initial imprisonment, Bella grows into a woman with agency over her own decisions, particularly about her body. Bella is exposed to poverty in Alexandria, Egypt; she sees dead brown babies from a distance.
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Violence & Scariness
Several gory scenes of surgeons (and Bella) cutting open cadavers or patients. A flashback shows how Godwin put an infant's brain in Bella's body. Godwin refers to the many experiments performed on his body, including one that turned him into a eunuch and another that left him unable to process digestion. Bella uses a knife to "play" with cadavers. She repeatedly plunges the knife in a dead body's eye sockets. Bella touches a woman servant's genital area without consent, misguidedly thinking she should help the maid feel good. The maid slaps her. Bella says she's going to punch a crying baby in the face and tries to approach him before being stopped. A character's violent, cruel nature is revealed when he points a gun at his servants, one of whom is wearing an arm sling; he also uses his trained dog to threaten people. One of Bella's lovers fights other men over her attentions. A character is shot and then falls. Chloroform is used to sedate people. Bella throws violent tantrums and smashes/destroys various items; she also bites someone's hand.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Frequent explicit sex scenes that always include partial nudity (and occasionally full-frontal) and various sexual positions/acts (some involving bondage or role playing). Bella becomes a sex worker at a Paris brothel; a montage shows her having sex with many different men, including an encounter in which a father brings his two tween/teen sons to watch him have sex as an instructional tool. As she discovers her sexuality, Bella masturbates and inserts items into her vagina. She also discusses the mechanics and pleasure of sex on many occasions. There's also kissing and cuddling. Nonsexual nudity early in the movie: A doctor sees Bella's nightgown slip off her breast while she sleeps, and in another scene, Bella plays with a male cadaver's penis.
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Frequent use of "f--k" and "f--king," and a few uses each of "c--t," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "whore," and more. "Jesus" and "God" as exclamations.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults often drink with meals and at taverns, occasionally to excess: wine, beer, hard liquor, cocktails. People also smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Poor Things is director Yorgos Lanthimos' sexually explicit adaptation of an award-winning Frankenstein-like novel by the late Alasdair Gray. Emma Stone stars as Bella Baxter, an unorthodox scientist and the reanimated creation of a surgeon. Expect many scenes with full-frontal and partial nudity and lots of fairly graphic sex—between couples, friends, and sex workers and their customers. Much of the movie's violence is medical, but that includes several gory, unsettling scenes of cadavers being dissected and (in Bella's case) stabbed for fun. Characters also fight, one man uses a gun to threaten his servants and spouse, people are shot and bitten, and a group of impoverished dead people, including babies, is glimpsed quickly. There's lots of strong language, with more than two dozen uses of "f--k" or "f--king," plus words like "c--t," "s--t," "ass," "Jesus" (as an exclamation), and "whore." Like all of Lanthimos' movies, this one is likely to spark much debate and conversation—about feminism, sexual freedom, what it means to be human or a woman, and what marriage should be founded on, for starters. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Stone proves once again to be an exemplary muse for Lanthimos' vision, giving a memorable performance as a scientific creation. Lanthimos is the sort of singular director who is difficult to feel indifferent about; his signature style is so over-the-top that you're either along for the ride or determined to ignore his filmography altogether. The director, using a script by The Favourite screenwriter Tony McNamara, wittily blends humor with sex and violence to reveal truths about humanity. There's a distinctively feminist gloss to this "daughter of Frankenstein" story, and a lot is owed to Stone's scenes with her father figure/doctor/God (it's literally his nickname), played by Dafoe, who's always extraordinary when he gives a role—no matter the size—his all. And Ruffalo is surprisingly believable as Bella's egotistical and possessive first lover.
The supporting characters similarly pack a punch in their small-but-mighty roles, particularly the inimitable Kathryn Hunter as a Paris madam, Jerrod Carmichael and legendary German actress Hanna Schygulla as Bella's new vacation friends, and Christopher Abbott as a sadistic military officer. Fans of Lanthimos appreciate his daring, unexpected storytelling, and this passionately made adaptation stays true to the book's themes as seen through his stylistic lens. Costume designer Holly Waddington deserves awards for her work, and the production designers have created a colorful, fantastical setting for Bella's adventures. While this movie is definitely not for kids, it's ideal for prestige-film-loving older teens and adults.
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.