Spinning Man

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Spinning Man Movie Poster Image
Sturdy, smart thriller has drinking, violence, sex.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Raises interesting ideas about memory and truth; i.e., how do we know what's absolutely true vs. our perception of what we believe to be true?

Positive Role Models & Representations

They're smart and fairly likable, but the characters aren't particularly admirable. They're troubled, and they don't always make the wisest choices.


A man hurts a woman; blood is shown. A pet bunny dies in a trap; nothing seen. A woman snaps her fingers in a mousetrap. A married couple fights/shouts in public. Discussions of what might have happened to a missing/dead girl. Character rages.


A man fantasizes about kissing/caressing a young woman. Married couple kisses while the wife is wearing lingerie. A man kisses women during "memory" flashbacks. Men ogle a young woman's bottom. Discussions of extramarital affairs.


A few uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "damn," "goddamn," and "swear to God."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of a teen "kegger" party. Main character gets very drunk in one scene and casually drinks beers at home. Young woman smokes. A secondary character is a recovering alcoholic.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spinning Man is a thriller about a missing woman (Odeya Rush) and a philosophy professor (Guy Pearce) who may or may not have been involved in her disappearance. The movie's most intense scene of violence involves a man hurting a woman, with some blood shown. Other moments of violence are largely implied. A bunny dies (offscreen) in a trap, and fingers get snapped in a mousetrap. Characters rage and argue. Language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. A man kisses his wife, fantasizes about kissing a young woman, and kisses two other women in possibly inaccurate flashbacks. Men ogle a young woman's bottom, and extramarital affairs are discussed. A man gets extremely drunk in one scene, a teen "kegger" party is mentioned, a young woman smokes a cigarette, and a secondary character is a recovering alcoholic. This isn't an exceptional film, but it's smart and emotional enough to make it worth seeing for older teens and adults.

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What's the story?

In SPINNING MAN, philosophy professor Evan Birch (Guy Pearce) is happily married to Ellen (Minnie Driver), with two kids. But they've recently moved, apparently to escape some kind of dark past. Trouble starts again when a beautiful young student named Joyce (Odeya Rush) goes missing, and the few clues that the police have turned up point toward Evan. Unruffled detective Malloy (Pierce Brosnan) questions him; the more Evan tries to sustain his innocence, the guiltier he looks. Meanwhile, another student, Anna (Alexandra Shipp), seems to be flirting with Evan, making the situation even more difficult. Finally, Evan must answer a question that he's posed in class many times: What is the truth, and what is one's perception of the truth?

Is it any good?

This little thriller, part lurid potboiler and part philosophical quandary, plays like a sturdy B movie: It won't change the world, but it might keep late-night viewers from changing channels. Spinning Man skillfully provides visual bits of the mystery without offering any definitive answers; it constantly keeps viewers off-balance and unsure about whether Evan is innocent. Thanks to Pearce's performance, however, we hope that he might be. Evan's lectures feel realistic and thoughtful, rather than perfunctory or functional; they offer genuine reflection on the rest of the story. Frequent images of mice and traps also help the movie's atmosphere.

Brosnan offers another interesting layer; his detective Malloy speaks slowly, and his every behavior is measured (he's shown to be a recovering alcoholic), which makes his moments with Evan intelligent and engaging. The climactic sequence with the two of them, while unorthodox, is also fairly brave and somewhat fascinating. Likewise, Driver's Ellen -- rather than being a sidelined "wife" character -- actually has feelings and a past, which she calls upon to make her character believable and sympathetic. Of course, Spinning Man also knows how to work more below-the-belt angles -- it has its moments of erotic desire and anticipation -- and it doesn't add up to anything exceptional, but it's still a dizzy entertainment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Spinning Man's violence. Is it shocking or thrilling? How much is shown, and how much is kept offscreen? How does this approach affect you? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How does the main character view sex? Does he value or respect women? What are his values?

  • Does the movie relate to the #MeToo movement? Why or why not?

  • How is drinking represented? What's the difference between the main character, who gets drunk on one occasion, and the character who's a recovering alcoholic?

  • What does the professor mean when he talks about absolute truth vs. the perception of truth? Does this mean that there's no such thing as absolute truth?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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