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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It takes perseverance to live up to your personal ideals. Perseverance is also necessary to reach personal goals or to live life in a way that's healthy for you.
Positive Role Models
Jimmy perseveres to try to give Annie the life she deserves before her death from terminal cancer. He doesn't fully succeed, but he does his best to live a life on the straight and narrow.
Includes characters of color (Black and Latino), but most are criminals with a fixed identity who are compared unfavorably with a White man (Jimmy) who was also convicted of a crime and jailed but is presented as someone redeemable with a good heart who didn't mean to get involved in illegal activity. A Black crime boss named Price is humanized to a degree (and shown as well-dressed, eloquent, cultured) but is still depicted negatively compared to Jimmy. Italian mafiosos are drawn from stereotype. Portrayal of Price's son, Tommy, is more "gangster" than "upscale child of privilege" despite Price's standing; it feels like this is because he's Black. Annie upholds clichéd gender roles in that she accepts every problematic decision Jimmy makes. She says she's "furious" with him but then negates that by saying, "But what good would that do?" The moment is presented as her being wise, especially since she's facing death and might not have time to engage in pettiness. But her anger isn't petty -- it's justified. Moments like these disregard her feelings, including those about being diagnosed with a terminal illness. She's presented as a saintly angel, which is disservice to potential richness of her character.
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Violence & Scariness
Scenes with hitting, torture, gunfire (resulting in deaths), threats -- both verbal and with weapons. A scene includes a deadly accident resulting in death. A scene with a character dying from their throat getting cut. A character throws a chair into a pool in anger. A character has a terminal illness.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Partial nudity in a bathtub scene. Kissing, making out.
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Language includes "goddamn," "hell," "damn," "d--k," "ass," "s--t," "dammit," "f--k," "dumb-ass," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "motherf----r," "smart-ass," and "balls." Middle-finger gesture. The phrase “extremely bipolar” is used to describe a character's quickly changing emotions and could be seen as ableist. Exclamatory use of "Jesus Christ."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke marijuana and drink beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that South of Heaven is an uneven drama about a man (Jason Sudeikis) who tries to live a crime-free life after leaving jail to take care of his terminally ill girlfriend (Evangeline Lilly) but unintentionally makes trouble for a crime boss (Mike Colter). Violence includes torture, gunfire (resulting in deaths), and threats -- both verbal and with weapons. Someone dies after their throat is cut. There's also substance use (pot, drinking) and swearing ("goddamn," "d--k," "ass," "s--t," "f--k," "Jesus Christ"), as well as minor scenes of sexual content, such as partial nudity (in the bath), kissing, and making out. The film is iffy on the representation front in that characters of color are compared unfavorably with a White man with a similar history (their identities seem fixed as "criminal," while he is presented as redeemable). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
South of Heaven seems to want to be an introspective drama, but it's hard to figure out what kind of story it wants to tell. The two main male characters, Jimmy and Price, feel miscast to unintentionally hilarious effect. While Sudeikis does his best as Jimmy, it's hard to believe him as a convicted criminal. He just presents as too "safe" for someone who was incarcerated for 15 years. It's also hard to believe Colter as Price, a criminal who positions himself as a well-spoken, cultured businessman -- he seems too nice, too likable, and again, too safe, to be believable.
Lilly also does her best with Annie, Jimmy's long-suffering girlfriend, who has just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. While Lilly injects as much humanity into Annie as possible, the character is still a feminine cliché: She's presented as a saintly, perfect woman who seemingly gains purpose through supporting Jimmy through all of his mistakes, including ones she should have left him over. She just can't seem to catch a break, despite being the one character who really needs one. There's more introspection around Jimmy's angst over Annie's illness than there is for her own feelings. And yet she remains smiley and forgiving, in spite of the various emotional burdens placed on her life by both Jimmy and her illness. On top of this, the film has very odd character beats, including long, unintentionally hilarious monologues and a strangely acted kidnapping scenario in which the kidnappers (Jimmy and Price) become friends of sorts with their captives (Price's son Tommy, played extraordinarily well by the film's standout actor, Thaddeus J. Mixson, and Annie). These moments are meant to give viewers more insight into the characters, but they just come off as a script spinning its wheels while providing faux sentimentality. Overall, South of Heaven makes for a confusing watch.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.