Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You Movie Poster Image
Listless coming-of-age drama about teen's ho-hum "problems."
  • NR
  • 2012
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The film says that it's OK -- in fact, it's pretty normal -- for teens to be uncertain about what to do with their lives. James, the main character, spends the entire film agonizing about his lack of direction, until he finally realizes that his feelings are totally normal.

Positive Role Models & Representations

James is surrounded by well-meaning but ultimately self-centered people, including a vain dad who's mostly distracted by his young girlfriend, a mother who dramatically ends her third marriage during the honeymoon, and an older sister who's involved with a married college professor. It's no wonder that James is clueless about what to do with his life, since nobody in his family seems to have it figured out either.


Some arguments, and one teen gets into a minor scuffle with classmates.


Some discussion about sex, including a father who's very curious about his son's sexual orientation.


Occasional swearing includes "f--k," "s--t," "prick," "crap," etc.


A few characters use Apple laptops.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People, including a teen, drink wine at a party. High school students smoke pot in a hotel room while on an overnight school trip.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You is a coming-of-age tale about a recent high school graduate who doesn't know what to do with his life. Everyone's pushing for him to go to college; he's not interested, but he also doesn't know what does interest him. Expect some drinking (including by underage characters) and one scene featuring high school students getting high. There's also discussion of sex and sexual orientation and occasional swearing (including "f--k," "s--t," and more).

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What's the story?

James (Toby Regbo) is fresh out of high school and has no idea what to do with his life. His parents (Peter Gallagher and Marcia Gay Harden) urge him to go to college, but it just doesn't seem like the right choice to him. Problem is, he has no idea what he should do instead -- so he spends much of SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU trying to figure it out, with some guidance from an unorthodox life coach (Lucy Liu).

Is it any good?

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You tries to turn the agonizing life choices of a 17-year-old boy into the stuff of high drama, but the stakes are very low. Should James go to school at Brown? Should he buy an old house and fix it up? Should he just jump off the roof, or work at his mom's high-end art gallery? His are the options of privilege, thanks to wealthy parents, but this material comfort means he has little motivation to do much of anything.

This isn't a situation that's available to most real-life teens, and it's not especially interesting to watch as a result. In the end, James faces the same choices as just about everyone his age, and little he does is original. His decisions are neither unusual nor entertaining, and neither is this movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether James is a realistic character. Does he seem like a real teen? Are his dilemmas relatable? How does he compare to other movie teens?

  • How does the movie portray drinking and drug use? Are there realistic consequences?

  • What life advice does James' grandmother give him? Is it useful/helpful?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

Themes & Topics

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