Parents' Guide to

The Violent Heart

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Tragic drama has strong performances, violence.

Movie NR 2021 107 minutes
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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.

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