Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Serena Movie Poster Image
Violent, mature Depression-era drama wastes strong cast.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Love doesn't always conquer all -- not when people lose sight of right and wrong in their zeal to protect their partner and their relationship.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both Serena and George are willing to go to extreme lengths, including violent and illegal actions, to protect their wealth and each other. Their devotion to each other is impressive, though eventually it starts to feel obsessive.


A woman encourages her husband to commit murder. When he balks, she takes matters into her own hands. He retaliates by choking her almost to death. Two men get into a brutal fight; one wields a straight razor that leads to a bloody conclusion. A man is shot in cold blood during a hunting expedition that's made to look like an accident (few people are fooled). An accident at a logging camp leaves a man crushed. A hunter is attacked by a panther.


Plenty of kissing; several sex scenes showing a couple in the throes of passion. Lots of motion and sounds, but -- with the exception of a brief glimpse of the man's bare backside -- no graphic nudity. Several scenes show people bathing (no sensitive nudity).


Infrequent language includes sparing use of "bitch" and "s--t."


No references to modern consumer products, but the film's main theme is how a wealthy man will do almost anything to keep his fortune.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many characters smoke cigarettes and cigars throughout the film (accurate for the era). Also frequent drinking -- at saloons, parties, and sometimes at home alone. A woman gets quite drunk during a large social event.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Serena is a a Depression-era drama that starts as a love story -- Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star as a timber baron and his bride -- but eventually becomes a bleak tale of tragic obsession. There are several love scenes that feature stars in the throes of passion (though no graphic nudity), some drinking, and several characters who smoke (accurate for the era). There are also a few brutally violent moments (a man choking a woman nearly to death, a point-blank shooting, a bloody fight with a razor blade, a man being crushed by a log, etc.) and mature themes, including jealousy, corruption, and illegitimate children.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13 and 15-year-old Written byMamaBird June 14, 2015

Its more pg-13 then R

I let both my daughters watch this and we discussed afterword what happened. I think it had a wonderful message and people should give it a chance for teens ev... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byGeeky_fangirl October 9, 2020

Enjoyable plot.

Honestly, this was not my favourite Jennifer Lawrence movie I have viewed, but it wasn’t the worst either. The story is quite bland but does have interesting co... Continue reading

What's the story?

George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper), a Depression-era logging baron, is a dedicated bachelor until he's smitten by SERENA (Jennifer Lawrence), whom he quickly woos and weds and takes back to his lumber camp in the Carolina woods. The two are devoted to each other, willing to do anything to protect their marriage. So when George is betrayed by a business associate and faces potential ruin, Serena urges him to take matters into his own hands.

Is it any good?

Serena (based on the novel by Ron Rash) has a strong cast, but there's no spark, and the film is uninspired. Lawrence and Cooper are award-winning actors who've previously paired for two acclaimed blockbusters, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, so it's amazing -- or, more accurately, disheartening -- that they're so lackluster in this period drama.

Nothing seems to fit, and plot pieces don't gel. It's unclear, for instance, whether George and Serena's devotion is a sign of tender compassion or obsessive derangement. The dialogue is especially stiff, full of groan-worthy stinkers. ("The prey believes if it keeps still it will not be noticed," a wizened hunting guide explains, in overly ponderous tones.) Another admittedly smaller quibble: The sets and wardrobe look unusually clean for a working lumber camp. The conflict in the film is easy to spot, and Serena's excessively severe solutions to the couple's problems just don't feel quite right. Nothing here feels quite right.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Serena. What role does it play? Do you think it's all necessary to tell the story? Does it have more or less impact than violence in an action/thriller movie? Why?

  • How does the movie portray the Pembertons' marriage? Does it seem like a healthy relationship? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding relationships.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Themes & Topics

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