A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie has an overwhelming sense of negativity and helplessness, but there are hints of characters triumphing over adversity. Will initially deals with troubles through anger and drinking, but as his friendship grows with Olivia and Tony, he starts to learn tenderness and understanding. Tony, too, begins to allow himself to get close to Will and learn from his newfound compassion.
Positive Role Models
Will isn't exactly a shining role model -- he's conflicted, angry, confused, depressed, and frustrated. He very often gives into these tangled emotions, reacting with rage and drinking. But his new position begins to open his heart and give him some insight, and through his friendships with Olivia and Tony, he begins to look for more positive, hopeful outlets and learns patience and understanding.
Violence & Scariness
The movie has a mostly simmering, unspoken violence. In his frustration, Will angrily hurls darts at his wall and listens to loud, harsh music. He and Tony get into a brief, mild shoving fight. Later, they team up against three bullies, but the movie cuts away from the actual fight directly to the results: cuts and bruises.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Will has sex with an ex-girlfriend in the film's first few minutes, with some rear and frontal female nudity and definite grinding/thrusting. Later, Tony has a naked girl in his bed, and there's full-frontal female nudity, as well as Tony's naked behind. Still later, Tony has noisy sex with another girl, but totally offscreen.
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Frequent use of "f--k" and "f--king," as well as some use of "s--t." Other words include "balls," "ass," and "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult characters drink frequently and intensely, mainly to drown out their pain and fear. Tony is an alcoholic who's fallen off the wagon; the two men go on a long drinking binge at one point. Drinks range from beer to whisky.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Messenger is an intense but thoughtful drama about a wounded Iraq War veteran who's been assigned the very difficult task of informing people of their loved ones' deaths. It's a grim subject that certainly won't appeal to everyone -- though families with mature teens whose lives have been touched by war may find it very emotional and rewarding -- but it brings up some fascinating topics, including the ways that war changes people. The movie doesn't shy away from the raw aspects of soldiers' lives -- complete with strong language, fighting, heavy drinking, sex (including full-frontal nudity) and sex talk -- but it offers a lot to talk and think about. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The tough, grim subject matter of THE MESSENGER certainly won't appeal to everyone, but the brave few who take it on will find themselves rewarded by intelligent, graceful, and touching filmmaking. Screenwriter Oren Moverman (I'm Not There) makes his directorial debut with quiet observance, focusing on genuine characters and emotions filled with shades of gray and getting a round of superb performances in the process.
Refreshingly, there's no sense of preaching or condescending, as in many Iraq War movies. After The Hurt Locker, The Messenger is one of the best and most useful looks at human feelings in a wartime atmosphere; it even makes attempts to look forward to a potentially better future, rather than dwelling on the horrors of the present. The movie's realism also includes some intense, unsettling behavior, as would be expected from jaded soldiers, and only older teenagers and parents should apply.
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.