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Parents' Guide to

Small Engine Repair

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Extreme violence, language, drugs, drinking in mature drama.

Movie R 2021 103 minutes
Small Engine Repair Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: Not yet rated
Kids say: Not yet rated

Pollono's film directorial debut is solid -- memorable, unsettling, and admirably shot, written, and acted -- but it's hard to recommend. This portrait of the lifelong friendship between three working-class men, guys who look back and laugh at the beatings their dads used to give them (ha ha?), has an explosive twist that forces you to think about degrees of right and wrong. It's going to hit parents in the heart, perhaps even delivering a moment of self-reckoning when they put themselves into the characters' shoes.

And those scuffed workboots are incredibly well worn by the actors, who perform better than their beloved Red Sox. Their thick New England accents fit them as comfortably as their flannel jackets, and their decades of friendship are palpable. The three buddies thrive on giving each other a hard time, bonding over sports, booze, and their adoration of Crystal, whom Swaino and Packie raised during the years that Frank was in prison. As we uneasily warm up to their friendship, we slowly discover that their flaws extend well beyond their comfort making sexist, homophobic remarks. Frank struggles to contain his rage, Swaino is a womanizer, and Packie is both a sage and a sensitive stooge. Pollono knows this material well: He adapted Small Engine Repair from his own off-Broadway production and had a decade to mold it into a film. The end result is well executed, but that doesn't mean that this examination isn't, at heart, somewhat revolting. Still, Pollono's craftmanship is worthy of respect: He threads the needle so delicately, and then he takes viewers somewhere most of them likely never expected to go, and never wanted to. But, just as it is for the three friends, once it's too late, you realize you should've seen it coming.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: September 10, 2021
  • On DVD or streaming: September 30, 2021
  • Cast: John Pollono , Ciara Bravo , Jon Bernthal
  • Director: John Pollono
  • Inclusion Information: Female actors
  • Studio: Vertical Entertainment
  • Genre: Drama
  • Topics: Friendship
  • Run time: 103 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: pervasive language, crude sexual content, strong violence, a sexual assault, and drug use
  • Last updated: December 1, 2022

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