A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Mountain is a disturbing coming-of-age drama starring Jeff Goldblum as a lobotomy surgeon; his character is based on the real-life Dr. Walter Freeman, but the movie's story is fictional. The film is provocative on all levels, intending to spark debate about mental illness, the psychiatric profession, art, sex (as both a gender and an act), and the tendency to look at the 1950s through rose-colored glasses. It may also cause queasiness: Surgery scenes are filmed from a distance, but the very idea of an icepick into the eye socket (which sums up '50s lobotomy procedure) is a horror. Characters also receive electroshock therapy, and patients fight against unwanted surgeries. Sexual content includes random hookups, inappropriate sexual behavior, and full-frontal nudity of men, women, and a hermaphrodite. Not surprisingly, given the 1954 setting, characters smoke and drink constantly. There's also regular use of "f--k" and other words. Tye Sheridan co-stars.
What's the story?
In THE MOUNTAIN, Andy (Tye Sheridan) is a lonely introvert living with his ice-skater father in the 1950s. After his father passes away, Andy accepts a job photographing patients of Dr. Wallace Fiennes (Jeff Goldblum), the doctor who institutionalized and lobotomized his mother, as Fiennes promotes his controversial surgery. As Andy tours the country with the doctor, he feels a greater connection to his mother -- and a greater empathy for Fiennes' patients.
Is it any good?
Most teens won't enjoy this dreadful dirge, and they could well be aghast you even suggested it. Ready Player One's Tye Sheridan is drained of all spark playing Andy, a hunched-over, nonverbal, feet-shuffling sad sack who takes a job with the man who lobotomized his mother in an effort to find a connection to her. Is it depression? It's impossible to tell; his behavior is the same before his father's death. And the pace is excruciatingly slow: Director Rick Alvarez doesn't just give a scene room to breathe; scenes meditate in utter stillness until they induce sleep. The film finally comes to life with the introduction of belligerent Susan (Hannah Gross), whose French healer father, Jack (Udo Kier), requests that Fiennes perform a lobotomy on his daughter.
Jack has his own mental health issues, and it's hard to tell what's his personality, what's his artistry as a healer, and what's just him being an obnoxious, out-of-control drunk. What is easy to tell is that Jack is here to represent art(!) and says so(!). He indulges in a couple of subtitled soliloquies about the nature of art, hermaphrodites, and form, sometimes speaking in poetic verse. Some may appreciate The Mountain's high-mindedness and lofty goals, but for most -- especially teens -- it's more likely to play as ridiculous. The film is trying to disrupt viewers' senses by marrying a horror story with gorgeous cinematography. Even in grittier scenes, every shot is gorgeously composed. Clearly it's designed for active thought and debate, but with so much to unpack, it may have the opposite effect: making viewers feel they've been lobotomized themselves. Don't put it past Alvarez -- that may be the point.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Andy. Do you think he's depressed or dealing with grief? Do you think he feels empathy or compassion for the patients who are to be lobotomized? If so, why doesn't he intervene? Why do you think he volunteers for a lobotomy?
How do you think writer-director Rick Alvarez is trying to challenge viewers? Why do you think he contrasts a dark story with beautiful imagery? Why do you think he has called this an anti-utopian film?
Talk about the history of the lobotomy procedure and how people with mental illness, from schizophrenia to anxiety to depression, were treated historically. Why do you think the lobotomy was popular? Why is it important to reduce the stigma of mental illness?
How does the version of 1954 depicted in The Mountain compare to other movies and TV shows you've seen set in the '50s. Do you think that era is romanticized? Why or why not?
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