A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes looking beyond background and appearance to see the heart of a person. Shows how lies and deception can do lasting damage. Themes include compassion, empathy, perseverance.
Positive Role Models
Daniel is a devoted and caring brother, son, boyfriend. He hopes to be a better man who isn't judged by his former actions. Cassie is intelligent, kind, generous. She genuinely wants to help Daniel. Positive representation of an interracial relationship.
Violence & Scariness
A character is shot twice and lands, bleeding, in a ditch. A boy falls in and sees his dying sister's bloody body. A character explains the assault that landed him in prison. One character nearly gets into a fight with another. Three characters die: two by gunshot, one by strangulation. A deadly fight is up close and personal.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One love scene that begins with kissing, then shows two people in a bed with bare shoulders and backs. The next morning there's more kissing; additional kissing in other scenes. In one scene, a young woman tries to open a shut door and finds a couple rearranging their clothes, obviously having had sex.
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Half a dozen uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," and "oh my God." Insult language includes "garbage," "slut," "stupid," "that boy," "that girl," "frickin' annoying."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An underage character drinks in a bar. Discussion of how teens will drink, smoke, and party before a school dance. A character smokes an e-cigarette.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Violent Heart is a drama with moments of violence and sorrow. Part romance, part mystery/thriller, and part melodrama, it follows a 24-year-old mechanic who, as a child, witnessed his older sister's murder, as well as an 18-year-old high school senior who's ready to rebel. There are a few scenes of intense violence, including three murders, two of which are bloody and disturbing. Expect a smattering of strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "oh my God") and a non-graphic love scene, as well as passionate kissing between a couple who are 24 and 18 -- an age difference that feels uncomfortable. Families who watch together can discuss everything from race and incarceration to honesty between parents and teens; themes include compassion, empathy, and perseverance. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Reminiscent of old-fashioned melodramas, this emotional drama has standout performances and a heartrending plot -- but also uneven pacing and a contrived storyline. One plot point that could have easily changed is the initially uncomfortable age difference between Daniel and Cassie. It's unnecessary for Daniel to be 24; aging him at 21or 22 would still have been noticeable compared to Cassie but not borderline creepy. Writer-director Kerem Sanga at least addresses this concern by having Daniel claim that Cassie is too young, while she proclaims she's an adult. Cassie reveals her age with her naivete and her inability to see how she's actually making Daniel's life harder with her impetuous decision to pursue him.
The movie's strengths revolve around Daniel's story arc: his childhood trauma, his desire to join the military and make his father proud, his devotion to his mother (the excellent if underused Mary J. Blige) and 15-year-old brother Aaron (Jahi Di'Allo), who goes to the same high school as Cassie. The scenes between Daniel and his family are heartbreaking, because it's clear that their family is still grieving the loss of the oldest daughter/sister. Even Aaron feels the grief of losing a sibling he never met. Adepo and Van Patten have decent chemistry, but their relationship seems ill-conceived from the start. Race isn't overtly mentioned, but the movie is set in Tennessee, and Cassie's parents (Haas and Kimberly Williams-Paisley) mention "that boy" and how "troubled" he is, so it's there all the same. Ultimately, The Violent Heart's tragic aspects make it difficult to watch, but it's worth the effort because of the cast.
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.