Reach

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Reach Movie Poster Image
Uneven drama about bullying, suicide can be preachy.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 92 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Clear messages about cultivating strong friendships, asking for help, being open and honest with parents and guardians about struggles and losses. Compassion and empathy are also themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Clarence starts out as a positive influence on Steven, boosting his confidence and helping bring him out of his shell, but also makes iffy decisions, has a history of substance use. Clarence's grandparents and Steven's father aren't perfect but want to be there for the boys.

Violence

Online discussion of suicide and best way to do it; a character stashes Oxy in his backpack just in case he's ready to overdose. Flashback to disturbing scene of Steven's mother's suicide. In a brief shot, she's shown slightly bloody and being retrieved from an overflowing bathtub. Nick is badly beaten -- to the point of having a black eye and bloody mouth -- by his father. Nick pushes and threatens Steven. An adult dies. A teen with a gun shoots someone.

Sex

A character holds hands with his girlfriend but is also secretly going out with an openly gay character. They touch briefly, and it's implied that they're physical with each other.

Language

Occasional strong language includes "s--t," "piece of s--t," "damn," "douche bag," "grab ass," "fairy" (as a homophobic slur), and "f--k."

Consumerism

iPhone, MacBook, Ford.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A father is shown drinking or drunk in several scenes. Teens drink, smoke pot, and vape at a party. Having pot is depicted as a quick way to be welcomed to a party. Friends share a joint. A teen steals and abuses his friend's oxycodone. A teen plans to overdose.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Reach is a teen drama about bullying, suicide, and abuse. Although the movie shows teen substance use (including drinking, smoking pot, and vaping), physical abuse, and characters actively contemplating suicide or planning to hurt others, it ultimately has a few positive messages about reaching out to others, asking for help, and realizing that life is worth living. Expect occasional strong language ("s--t," "a--hole," "f--k") and scenes of bullying, threats, violence, and a father physically tormenting his son. Two characters die. While it's a bit melodramatic and predictable, the movie could encourage conversation between parents and teens.

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What's the story?

REACH follows socially awkward high-schooler Steven Turano (Garrett Clayton), whose mother died by suicide years earlier; now, Steven is having suicidal thoughts himself. Steven frequents a pro-suicide message board and is sick of being bullied by his long-ago best friend, Nick (Jordan Doww). Then new kid in town Clarence (Johnny James Fiore) comes to the rescue with his charisma, humor, and martial arts skills. While Nick, who has lots of secrets, seems to get a kick out of targeting Steven, he too has a troubled home where he's mistreated and abused by his alcoholic father. Steven and Clarence, who has a magnetic personality, become fast friends, with Clarence calling Steven the "padawan" to his Jedi master. But as the story progresses, viewers realize that even Clarence has his demons.

Is it any good?

This uneven teen drama deals with heavy issues like abuse, addiction, and suicide in a preachy, predictable way. Although Clayton manages to give a nuanced performance as the initially depressed, lonely Steven, Fiore is almost too much, bordering on overacting with his larger-than-life portrayal. Clarence seems perfect: He's confident, intelligent, a fabulous actor who can quote Romeo & Juliet, a playwright, the life of the party, and Steven's personal guide in all things social. But the friendship between Steven and Clarence is too one-sided, and Clarence acts more like an older, worldlier brother than a best friend.

Reach attempts to do a bit too much, tackling bully Nick's backstory in addition to Steven's and even Clarence's. While it's admirable to be empathetic to bullies -- who are flawed but not irredeemable humans -- Nick's story isn't as well-developed as Steven's. And other characters and storylines are introduced but never followed up on in any meaningful way. The score is also strangely disconnected from the action. In one scene, when teens are drinking and smoking pot, the music is inappropriately upbeat and cheery. If parents need a movie to jump-start tricky conversations, they'd do better to watch Eighth Grade.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Reach portrays teens. Are the characters and their decisions realistic? Have you experienced anything similar?

  • How is substance use portrayed in the movie? Is it glamorized? Are there clear consequences? Why does that matter?

  • Discuss how the movie depicts bullying. What should teens do if someone harasses or threatens them? What should they do if they see someone else being bullied?

  • Who, if anyone, do you consider a role model in the movie? What character strengths does the person display?

Movie details

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