Shimmer Lake

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Shimmer Lake Movie Poster Image
Black comedy with violence, language, and sex.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 83 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Trust no one. The past catches up with everyone. Surprise is for the unprepared.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Conspirators double-cross each other. Wronged people hold long grudges.


A man is shot with a semi-automatic weapon at close range. Two others are shot from close range. A man is shot in the head from behind. Someone is hit on the head with an iron. Stories are told of a meth lab explosion that killed someone. During a bank robbery, a cop is threatened by armed men, handcuffed to a desk, and shot.


A woman gets in a shower and enticingly lets a man see her naked. She is seen onscreen in her underwear. A married middle-aged man is seen in bed with a naked 19-year-old boy. Only his bare behind is seen. Blackmailers with a sex tape press the older man to help them commit a crime. A plastic, life-sized female doll is found in someone's bed.


"F--k," "s--t," "ass," "hell," "bastard," "bitchin'," and "shut up."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Two characters were making meth in their lab when it exploded. One sustained a brain injury. The other's young son was killed in the blast. Adults drink alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shimmer Lake, a Fargo-esque crime comedy-drama, contains lots of violence and profanity. Betrayal among criminals and an inept heist by clueless thieves results in bloody and remorseless shootings. A married man is blackmailed for his homosexuality. A meth lab accident results in injuries and death. A little girl, imitating an adult, calls someone a "fat f--king bastard."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Teen, 13 years old Written byCineaphile March 23, 2020

Masterful Fargo like Movie

The sexual content is not as bad as people say it is. It is nothing a teen could not handle. There is a lot of violence but it is not to brutal. Smart plot and... Continue reading

What's the story?

SHIMMER LAKE is a dark, comic Fargo-like crime story in which three hapless criminals blackmail a politically-aspiring bank owner (John Michael Higgins) to help them rob his bank. A savvy local sheriff (Benjamin Walker of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)  pursues three suspects -- his inept brother (Rainn Wilson of Six Feet Under), a careless ex-con (Wyatt Russell) and a brain-injured hanger-on (Mark Rendall). The ex-con's wife (Stephanie Sigman) plays a small but pivotal role. Told backwards, the story offers bits and pieces of information to help the audience make sense of the clumsy heist and how and why it was planned and executed. Blood, murder, shootings, and betrayal all play out in intermittently mystifying ways. An exploded meth lab and a child's death (both unseen) are frequently mentioned, the former serving as the cause of the mental impairment of one of the robbers.

Is it any good?

This movie takes viewers along on an engaging ride but it feels as if writer-director Oren Uziel strains under pressure to make the film funnier and cleverer than it actually is. There's no real need nor any exceptional payoff that makes telling the story backwards anything more than an unprofitable gimmick. The humor isn't really black and twisted enough to rival the Cohn brothers' Fargo, Shimmer Lake's knowing or unknowing inspiration, and the storytelling isn't complex enough to match the time reversal that explains it all at the end of Spike Lee's Inside Man. But Uziel, a co-writer of 22 Jump Street, and writer of Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and Freaks of Nature, is definitely a filmmaker to watch.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in movies. Do the murders in Shimmer Lake, some intended, some accidental, all feel necessary for the plot to make sense?

  • Why do you think the filmmaker decided to tell the story backwards? Do you think it adds anything to the story or could it have been told chronologically and been equally effective?

  • A child was killed when irresponsible adults failed to protect him from their criminal activities. What does this movie say about adults who don't watch out for the well-being of kids?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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