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The Valley

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The Valley Movie Poster Image
Teen suicide drama aims for parental prevention.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 94 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Educates viewers about fact that high suicide rate among older teens may be linked to undetected anxiety, depression. Reaching out to connect with distant, sad, and/or isolated teens may save a life. John Steinbeck's The Pearl is frequently referenced as a metaphorical warning that pursuit of money can be toxic, rather than a cure-all, for a family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maya's friends and family are well-meaning people who care about Maya. But, in various ways, each makes selfish choices, and that self-absorption prevents them from recognizing Maya's depression and doing anything meaningful to intervene in a way that would have helped her.

Violence

Not shown but central to the story: A teen ends her life by jumping from her dorm window. An alleged teen assailant is grabbed and held by the throat, physically intimidated, and threatened with gun violence by the victim's father. A gun is pulled out in other instances, leaving viewers unsure whether the intention is to harm. A college student believes she was raped, but it's not clear if she was -- though it's certainly implied that she was slipped a date rape drug and was likely assaulted.

Sex

A teen bets he'll be able to bed a certain girl. A married woman is seen kissing a man other than her husband.

Language

"S--t," "a--hole," and multiple uses of the word "f--k."

Consumerism

Apple products (watch, phone, laptops) are used by a tech executive and his family.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Activities at a fraternity party include smoking pot and underage drinking. Adults drink wine/alcohol at dinner, at a party they are hosting, and at a bar. It's suggested that a date rape drug is slipped into a woman's tequila shot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Valley is about the impact that a teen suicide has on a successful Indian-American family living in Silicon Valley. Squarely aimed at parents, the story is told from the perspective of grieving father Neal (Alyy Khan), who's trying to unwind the events leading to his daughter's death. The story places the daughter's depression and anxiety on the shoulders of her family, who are portrayed as too distracted by their own lives to notice her faltering emotional state. The movie also tries to dispel the idea that if a family has wealth, it will automatically thrive. The girl's suicide isn't shown, but it affects the whole story. It's also implied that a young woman is drugged and raped by a fraternity member, and there are other physical altercations and the threat of gun violence. College students at a party drink and smoke pot, and Neal drinks and swears ("s--t," "f--k," etc.).

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What's the story?

In THE VALLEY, Indian immigrant-turned-tech millionaire Neal Kumar (Alyy Khan) has worked tirelessly to give his family "a better life" in Silicon Valley. He's the embodiment of the American Dream: He has an enviable job as CEO of a prominent tech company, a palatial home, a stunning wife (Suchitra Pillai), and a beautiful, intelligent daughter (Salma Khan) who's attending an elite medical school. But when his other daughter, Maya (Agneeta Thacker), dies by suicide, Neal's grief turns to obsession. He makes it his mission to learn the events that led to Maya's death, all while trying to balance his work responsibilities and manage his marriage. 

Is it any good?

This teen suicide drama isn't so much "good" as it is effective. The Valley is intended to shake up parents into examining their older children's behavior for signs of anxiety and depression -- and to take stock of how they might be unintentionally contributing to the pressure. The film's impact is strong, and it's hard to imagine that most parents won't check on their kids as soon as the credits roll.

Teens will be intrigued by seeing childhood throwback Jake T. Austin (Wizards of Waverly Place) in the role of a college bad boy, and Pillai gives a standout performance as a grieving mother who's trying to move on. Unfortunately, the rest of the actors' performances have moments that lack authenticity. The constant flashbacks could leave some viewers confused, and the pace is uneven. Audiences are also never allowed to forget that the story runs parallel to John Steinbeck's The Pearl. Still, while director Saila Kariat's debut effort as a filmmaker is uneven, her intentions are certainly in the right place, her work shows promise, and the result is affecting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the pressures of modern teen life. Does society tell us that a certain kind of life is acceptable vs. unacceptable? And is that really the case? Do adults add to that pressure?

  • What are signs of depression or suicidal thoughts? What responsibility do we carry to watch for these signs and help when it comes to classmates/people we know? What role does mental health play in this issue?

  • Maya's family seems to be doing all the "right" things in The Valley: encouraging her to eat healthy and focus on her education, trying to start conversations with her, accepting her choice to go to a less prestigious college, and more. Do you think they could have done anything to prevent Maya's suicide?

  • Maya's friend asks, "How can you get someone to open up?" How would you answer that question?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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