The Place of No Words

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Place of No Words Movie Poster Image
Dreamlike father-son drama deals with death and dying.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes families discussing death even with young children and exploring tough themes through conversation and imaginative play. Curiosity, compassion, and empathy are all major themes in the movie.

Positive Role Models

Mark and Teresa are devoted, loving parents who want to help their son understand that his father is sick and that death is an inevitable part of life. Bodhi is a sweet, curious boy.

Violence

Potentially disturbing scenes of a father in the hospital, ill in bed, or dying. Scenes of characters who are sad, tearful, and grieving.

Sex
Language

"Farting swamp," "fart," a joke about "Uranus" that's then explained to a boy about an anus being a "bumhole."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Place of No Words is writer-director Mark Webber's highly personal passion project featuring his real-life son Bodhi and wife Teresa Palmer. It's an ethereal fantasy drama about a father who's trying to help his son cope with the idea of death. Mark's character (also named Mark) is dying, and he and his son spend a lot of their time in their make-believe world as a Viking father and son, going on adventures and encountering different forest creatures. Meanwhile, back in the regular world, Mark is slowly succumbing to his disease. There's some potty humor (a farting swamp, snot-filled goblins, jokes about "Uranus") as well as a potentially distressing focus on death, dying, and sickness that might be too much for sensitive viewers. Despite the preschool-aged co-star, this isn't a typical family movie and is best suited for adults and teens who can handle the unique, introspective filmmaking.

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What's the story?

THE PLACE OF NO WORDS is writer-director-actor Mark Webber's latest family-centered movie featuring his real-life family of actors: wife Teresa Palmer as his wife and their little boy, Bodhi Palmer, as 3-year-old Bodhi. In the movie, Webber plays Mark, a father who's dying of a chronic illness and who has created, along with his Bodhi, a fantasy world where they are Vikings traveling through a magical forest filled with beautiful fairies, fear monsters, farting goblins, and other supernatural creatures. The fantasy adventure cuts in and out of the real world, where Bodhi plays with his often tired, sick, and hospitalized father. Mark focuses on teaching his son acceptance of and courage about death and the afterlife, and Teresa tries to remain supportive and present through her own grief. 

Is it any good?

This drama is a touching, gentle exploration of a father and his young son exploring death, dying, and the afterlife. By design, there's not much plot development in THE PLACE OF NO WORDS, which switches between the fantasy realm that Mark and Bodhi are in and the reality of their day-to-day life with family and best friends. The movie has the dream-like, interior-world feel reminiscent of a Malick or Zeitlin movie. The dialogue focuses on the characters' parent-child relationship and the fact that the bravery they need in their fantasy life is also necessary in real life as they face Mark's illness. The cinematography is purposely hand-held, cinema vérité style, with editing that gives it an alternating ultra-realistic and dreamy style, depending on the sequence.

This is a movie that requires stillness and patience. It's going to speak more to viewers who understand the heartache of grief and loss. Some may jadedly consider it boring and amateurish, while others will find it a meaningful, emotional view of how even the youngest among us understand and perceive the sadness of anticipatory grief. Little Bodhi "knows" his father is sick but doesn't want to talk about it some days. Then other days he wants to know about the afterlife and what will happen when Daddy dies. Yes, the movie is slow, but it's also touching if you stick with it and appreciate the tremendous amount of family, particularly parental, love required to make it. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how death and dying are depicted in The Place of No Words. Why do you think Mark says "death is part of life" and shouldn't be something to be afraid of? 

  • Webber enjoys making movies featuring his family and friends. What do you think of that practice? Does it make the movie more realistic?

  • Who do you think this movie's intended audience is? What message is it trying to convey? 

  • Would you consider anyone in the movie a role model? Which character strengths do they display?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama and fantasy

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