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 Parts You Lose is a movie about a young deaf boy (Danny Murphy) whose life changes after he harbors a fleeing fugitive (Aaron Paul). Violence is mostly implied, with everything from a mass murder to parental abuse of a child taking place off-screen. Viewers see peripheral visuals connected with these events: police cars and officers, bruises on a child's face, etc. A character has a gun, but he never fires it; someone is presumably killed by police officers, yet we only hear gunfire and see police standing outside a house. The boy is a target for bullies at school, who call him names (including "retard"), throw snowballs at his bus, and routinely smear mucus in his hair (which causes an adult to advise the boy to hit his bully with a coin-filled thermos in a backpack). Language is infrequent but includes "s--t," "f--king," "dammit," and more. A bar is a frequent hangout; in one scene, a character drinks beer morosely alone there and then gets into a car accident. Authority figures are unpredictable: Some are kind and supportive, others are somewhere on the spectrum from disinterested to cruel. A father refuses to speak sign language to his son, denying that he's deaf; the boy's mother uses ASL to communicate, though, and he's taught in this language at school. The movie's overall tone is so dark and bleak that it's best for mature teens and adults.
What's the story?
THE PARTS YOU LOSE is set in wintry North Dakota, where Wesley (Danny Murphy) lives a solemn, silent life, a target both at home and at school due to his deafness. His volatile dad, Ronnie (Scoot McNairy), wants to toughen him up and insists that Wesley isn't really deaf; his mom, Gail (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), sneaks around to talk to her son in sign language and tries to stay out of her husband's way. But when Wesley finds a strange man (Aaron Paul) bleeding on the road after a robbery gone wrong, the boy shelters the man in a barn near his house and strikes up a curious kind of friendship with him as he recovers. As police circle in on the fugitive, Wesley knows he'll have to make a choice between his friend and the rest of the world.
Is it any good?
The tone is as dark as the cinematography in this downbeat fable of a boy desperately in need of a friend -- both are bleakly beautiful, but this far from a feel-good movie. Wesley's life is lived in vignettes that range from stark to agonizing: the trip to school on the special-needs bus that the other boys throw snowballs at, fraught dinners with his seething dad and helpless mom in a house that's as dim as a photography development room, the daily indignity of a fellow student who wipes mucus in Wesley's hair to peals of laughter from the rest of the cafeteria.
Against such a desolate background, the arrival of Paul's wounded criminal seems like a good thing. The guy teaches Wesley some fancy checkers moves and gives him advice on vanquishing his bullies. Really, he treats the kid like he's worth something, in contrast to Wesley's own perpetually disappointed dad. The audience knows that The Parts You Lose's whole setup won't lead anywhere good, and they're right -- but it's clear that Wesley's confidence is in better shape after he helps his new friend and that a new spring in his step isn't the only thing the relationship left him with. If a frosty, deliberate character study is the fare you favor, you could do worse than this beautiful bummer of a movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Parts You Lose's violence, which is largely implied and takes place off-screen. How does the lack of gore affect how you feel about what you see? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
What kind of movie is this? A drama? A thriller? How can you tell? How does a movie communicate what emotions it hopes to inspire in viewers? What sounds or visuals provide viewers with clues about how to feel?
How might this movie change if the setting changed? If it were set in a big city, would Wesley's harboring of a criminal have gone so unnoticed? Would there be a place to hide someone? What about if it were set in a brightly lit, summery location? Would the mood be as stark and downbeat? How does setting contribute to a movie's overall tone?
How is bullying portrayed here? What impact does it have on the characters involved?
What role does Wesley's deafness play in the film? How does it compare to other portrayals of disability you've seen in movies or on TV?
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