A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this disturbing film follows a teenager who runs away from bullying classmates, a dysfunctional homelife, and a tragic accident. The 15-year-old Tracey ends up in the seedy underworld of a big city, populated by pimps, prostitutes, and thugs, who see her as an easy mark. The film opens with Tracey nearly naked, wrapped in a shower curtain in the back of a bus, and a series of flashbacks gradually reveals how she arrived in this difficult situation. The film uses a split-screen technique throughout, presenting multiple perspectives of each scene simultaneously. It's an interesting gimmick, but can be distracting. There are several moments of intense violence, including an attempted rape, mature sexual themes, drinking, smoking, and plenty of cursing. Young fans of Ellen Page expecting a fun follow-up to her hit film Juno should look elsewhere.
What's the story?
At the start of THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS, Tracey Berkowitz (Ellen Page) is alone at the back of a bus, wrapped only in a shower curtain, raving about her boyfriend and her missing brother Sonny. Something is clearly off-kilter here, and she refuses to explain her unsettling situation. But in a disjointed series of flashbacks, we see a 15-year-old girl who is bullied at school, neglected at home, and may have been involved in a tragic accident. She gradually reveals that she has run away to the city to find Sonny, ending up in a world of seedy bars and all-night diners, where the vulnerable teen is an easy mark for pimps, thugs, and small-time hoods.
Is it any good?
The Tracey Fragments can be tough to watch for two reasons. First, it uses a split-screen format, showing multiple perspectives of every scene. It's an interesting gimmick, but can also be distracting, forcing the viewer to focus on two or more images when the mesmerizing Page demands complete attention as a disturbed teen who is coming apart.
Second, Tracey is a girl with no refuge -- not at school, where she is bullied and belittled, nor at home where her violent father and emotionally absent mother create an environment of rules and discipline, but little love. Tracey is unraveling, slowly at first, but after a series of horrific encounters it becomes clear that her hold on reality is tenuous, and slipping. It's fantastic performance, but painful at times to see, and Page is not matched by either the supporting cast, or the profanity-laden script, which substitutes expletives for nuance. And though Tracey's breakdown is compelling, there is little else to see; scenes with her psychiatrist, for example, which could have been fascinating, devolve into screaming and swearing. When we finally learn what has pushed her over the edge, it feels like just one more terrible event in the sad life of a young girl who doesn't deserve so much woe.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Tracey's decision to run away. What is she looking for, and what is she running from? Do you think Tracey's descriptions of some of the events in her life are accurate; is she a reliable narrator? Why do you think she might embellish or falsify some of her stories? Do you think a real teen runaway might encounter similar situations? Are young runaways portrayed differently in other movies and TV shows?