A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Self/less is a sci-fi thriller starring Ryan Reynolds about a dying millionaire who gets the chance to buy a new body. The second half of the movie has lots of action/violence, including fighting, chasing, guns/shooting, car crashes, and houses and people on fire, though very little blood is shown. When the main character gets his new body, viewers see a montage of him kissing and falling into bed with several women; no graphic nudity is shown, but it's implied that he has many sexual partners. Language includes one "f--k" and sporadic uses of "s--t," "bitch," and "damn." Some social and/or background drinking is shown.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is wealthy, powerful, ruthless, and respected, though not without his regrets. He's also dying of cancer. Damian is approached by the mysterious Phoenix Biogenic institute, which is headed by a man called Albright (Matthew Goode), who offers Damian the chance to start over. For a price, he can leave behind his old life by "shedding" his old body and entering a new body (Ryan Reynolds). At first Damian has a good time, but he soon struggles with strange flashbacks. When an image of a water tower appears, he investigates. He meets Madeline (Natalie Martinez) and her daughter, who hold the key to his identity. And he begins to realize that Albright's fleshy scheme has a few sinister wrinkles.
Is it any good?
Former music video/commercial director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, Immortals) is generally known for making movies that are visually impressive and narratively pathetic, and this movie is no exception. The story of SELF/LESS has been borrowed in large part, without credit, from John Frankenheimer's Seconds (1966), a movie that took time to explore various themes of beauty and identity in a thoughtful way.
Self/less, on the other hand, doesn't do anything you could call thoughtful, and its sci-fi storyline seems almost arbitrary when compared to the rudimentary thriller climax. It all comes down to chases, escapes, and trying to catch the bad guy; it doesn't even appear to be trying. Singh's previous films featured impossibly huge sculptures and colorful dreamscapes, but the high point of this one is a gray, plastic labyrinth used for nothing more than the hero to hide in while closing in on his enemies. It could have been interesting, but Self/less is an empty vessel.
Talk to your kids about ...
What lessons do characters learn? Does the body-swapping experience help Damian become a better person? How?
Would you choose to buy a new body, if money was no object? Why or why not?
- In theaters: July 10, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: November 10, 2015
- Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Natalie Martinez
- Director: Tarsem Singh
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of violence, some sexuality, and language
- Last updated: January 8, 2021
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