A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The positive messages are related to the movie's cautionary-tale aspects. From that angle, it encourages teens and kids who feel helpless and depressed about their family situation to seek a trusted adult in the community to reach out to, even if that's hard or scary to do. Explores the dangers of substance abuse and how divorce and mental illness affect more than the individuals going through them. The twins show how close siblings can be and how important honesty is in family relationships.
Positive Role Models
Few role models in the movie -- most characters are flawed, and many make huge mistakes -- but Medina perseveres despite the various hardships in her life. Adrian is patient and loving toward Medina.
Violence & Scariness
An initially consensual make-out session (although she's underage, so it would be construed as statutory rape) turns into a near-sexual assault, and the young woman must push the older man away. A character overdoses and (spoiler alert) later dies, presumably from an overdose. A surfer "gang" threatens outsiders who want to surf in "their" spot; a few of them get in people's faces and, in one case, punch a guy. A woman angrily throws a tennis ball toward her estranged ex.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen couples shown kissing/making out. One love scene between two teenagers -- bare backs and underwear seen. A man is clearly having an affair (offscreen).
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Frequent strong language: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "f----r," "bitch," etc.
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Products & Purchases
Mercedes, Volvo, Jeep. Consumerism plays a big role in the community.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Underage drinking (mostly beer) and somewhat pervasive drug use that leads to a hospitalization and (spoiler alert) a death via overdose. Adults also drink and smoke cigarettes. Discussion and close-ups of prescription drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Tribes of Palos Verdes is based on Joy Nicholson's critically acclaimed 1997 coming-of-age novel about teen twins who move to a fancy oceanfront community in Southern California. Starring Jennifer Garner and Maika Monroe, the movie may appeal to teens who enjoy family dramas, but it's the sort of melancholy character study that tackles a host of heavy themes, including addiction, adultery, depression, divorce, and sexual assault. There's lots of strong language ("f--k," "bitch," "a--hole," "d--k," etc.) as well as quite a bit of drug use (from recreational party drugs to hardcore, addictive drugs), some sexuality, and one make-out scene that quickly turns from consensual to nonconsensual but stops short of rape. (Spoiler alert: A key character dies.) To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This atmospheric coming-of-age adaptation explores difficult themes and features noteworthy performances but comes up a little short. Monroe plays Medina believably well, in a manner reminiscent of a younger Kristen Stewart. Fern also gives a nuanced performance as Medina's twin, Jim, who feels torn between supporting his emotionally fragile, mentally ill mother and just wanting to be a regular teen who hangs out with his friends. And Garner, for once, doesn't play a sweet Type-A mom. It's a surprising performance, full of rage and desperation. The word "bipolar" is never said, but it's clear that Sandy swings between manic highs and debilitating lows.
Ultimately, however, this is Medina's story of dealing with her family's dissolution, discovering a new passion (surfing), experiencing first love, and feeling distanced from her twin brother for the first time in her life. There's not much of a plot here; in some ways, the story is more like a series of character vignettes -- each person in the Mason family has a different arc that leaves them irreversibly changed after moving to the seemingly perfect neighborhood of Palos Verdes. This isn't a feel-good film, but moviegoers who appreciate well-acted family dramas will appreciate it.
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.