A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Overcoming disability and trauma. Living with a disability. Families sticking together through hardship.
Positive Role Models
The Rays are a devoted family, showing each other support and affection after a traumatic event. Both Nicola and Tom show great courage and perseverance as they come to terms with Tom's illness. However, their relationship is tested by this newfound pressure, and an absent parent causes further rifts within the family. Doctors misdiagnose Tom's medical condition and ignore his and his family’s concerns. Tom's mother is something of a stereotypical "mother-in-law" character. Central roles for females. Some diversity among the cast.
Violence & Scariness
Both the painful initial stages of sepsis and the devastating consequences -- including the need for amputations -- are shown in detail. Household object smashed in anger. Shouted exclamations that intimidate others.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Romance and some affection between a clothed married couple, sitting together on a bed. Kissing.
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Language used includes "bloody" as an exclamation, "f--k off," and "f--king."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Reference to "going to the pub." Adult characters drink alcohol with meals. Character drinks alone as they battle depression and post-traumatic shock.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Starfish is a heavy British drama that deals with the after effects of a devastating illness and the impact it has on a family. Inspired by a real-life case, Tom Ray (Tom Riley) suffers disfigurements and amputations after contracting sepsis. At the start of Tom's illness, he is shown in pain and distress. He is later seen in hospital where he requires both arms and legs to be amputated. The movie tries to communicate a positive message where possible, despite Tom's difficult circumstances. This is often done through Tom's wife, Nicola (Joanne Froggatt). She supports her husband while raising two young children and dealing with her own shock caused by Tom's illness. She must also contend with the family's financial troubles. Both Tom's and Nicola's mothers feature in supporting roles, causing conflict within the family on occasion. Less positive representations are of various medical professionals, who frequently ignore severe symptoms and dismiss concerns that Tom's condition is more serious than what it turns out to be. Tom's depression and trauma sometimes boil over, causing him to snap at loved ones and one occasion smash a wine glass in frustration. Characters are shown drinking wine with meals. But there are some instances of Tom drinking alone while suffering from depression and feelings of helplessness. Some occasional swearing includes variants of "f--k." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
A well-meaning, real-life, tragic story designed to raise awareness of a damaging illness, Starfish unfortunately falters with a clunking script. It manages to rush through the aftermath of a missed sepsis diagnosis, but also drags throughout. Compressing a factual timeline into just 95 minutes means it's difficult to get a true sense of the long-term struggle of Tom Riley and his family, while at the same time the movie often feels repetitive, as Tom's moods fluctuate throughout.
The latter may be accurate, but it makes for a disjointed story. The result is something that looks and feels more like an under-developed and overly sentimental TV drama, despite the cast's best attempts to handle the sensitive subject matter with the respect it deserves.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
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Movies with Characters Who Have Physical Disabilities
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