Parents' Guide to

The Tribes of Palos Verdes

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Melancholy coming-of-age drama tackles tough topics.

Movie R 2017 104 minutes
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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.

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