The World Without You

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The World Without You Movie Poster Image
Adult themes, sex, cursing in thoughtful family drama.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie centers on a dysfunctional family gathering to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of a family member, killed while covering the Iraq War as a reporter. As the characters continue to grieve, they also must contend with disagreements, lingering resentments, and dark secrets that threaten to tear the family apart. 

Positive Role Models

Movie centers on a Jewish American family as they try to mourn the death of a son/brother who died in Iraq while working as a reporter, and struggle to connect amidst lingering resentments and dark secrets. Diverse characters.


While trying to play tennis in the middle of an argument, a woman hits the ball as hard as she can, striking her husband in the eye. Woman draws blood by biting her husband's lip while on the verge of having sex. 


Husband and wife shown attempting to have sex -- engaging in violent foreplay resulting in a bloody lip, masturbation, different sexual positions -- no nudity. Husband and wife shown trying to have sex in a hotel room in the hopes of having a child -- moaning, no nudity. Brief nonsexual nudity -- female buttocks. A circumcision joke.


"F--k" used several times. Also: "bulls--t," "s--t," "bitch," "damn," "ass." Middle finger gesture. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Marijuana smoking. Cigarette smoking. Wine drinking at dinner. Beer drinking in a bar. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The World Without You is a 2019 book-based drama in which an estranged Jewish family reunites to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the untimely passing of a beloved family member. The characters struggle with a wide array of issues, including separation, impending divorce, loss and grieving, eating disorders, religious faith, and the struggles one couple experiences while being unable to conceive. The movie is set in the mid-2000s, and the person the characters mourn was an idealistic reporter who was killed in the Middle East while covering the Iraq War. While there's no nudity, there are some graphic depictions of sex or attempts at sex. Some profanity, including "f--k" used several times. Some off-color humor, including a circumcision joke. Marijuana smoking. Cigarette smoking. Beer and wine drinking. While this is an excellent movie, the slow pace and heavy adult subject matter make it best for older teens and adults. 

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What's the story?

In THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU, the Frankel family has gathered for a memorial to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the untimely passing of their beloved grandson, son, brother, and father Leo. Leo was a reporter in the Middle East who was killed while covering the Iraq War. Upon reuniting in their summer cabin in the Berkshires, simmering tensions and lingering resentments soon resurface. The parents, Marilyn and David, are on the verge of separating, as David is trying to move on from Leo's passing and Marilyn's obsessed with finding out what exactly happened to her son. Clarissa and her husband Nathan are still struggling to conceive a child. Noelle and her husband Amram now live in Israel and practice the Orthodox Jewish faith and fight with each other as much as they fight with Noelle's sister Lily (Radha Mitchell), an atheist and newly single. Thisbe, Leo's widow, struggles to find a way to tell the family that she has met someone new as she tries to start a new life with her young son. As they grieve, bitterness threatens to permanently fracture the extended family. 

Is it any good?

The World Without You is a thoughtful drama exploring a family on the verge of falling apart. Reuniting for what may very well be the last time for a memorial to commemorate a family member killed one year ago while covering the Iraq War as a reporter, the family must confront their many issues. All the marital woes, sibling bitterness, and simmering resentments are constantly bubbling beneath the surface, so much so that the spark that causes the explosion seems like it could happen anywhere at any time. What the movie so beautifully and painfully captures is this this portrait of individuals, couples, and family members no longer able to maintain a facade that's crumbling anyway for all to see. The actors brilliantly convey the many tensions these characters are living with, and how close they are to simply walking away from each other for good. 

The movie is based on a novel, and like the family itself, there are moments when it seems as if the numerous conflicts are going to overwhelm the central story, but it maintains a steady focus amidst all this chaos. The complexities of the different characters would be a challenge that many filmmakers wouldn't succeed at when adapting this novel into a story, but the assured direction and the gifted ensemble cast more than rise to the challenge. The movie's slow external pace and very heavy adult themes make this best for mature teens and adults, and should inspire discussion on the many topics and conflicts the characters contend with and how difficulties can strengthen or destroy relationships. 


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies based on novels. What would be the challenges in adapting a novel into a movie? 

  • What are some of the topics this movie addresses? How are the conflicts these characters have with each other a reflection of their struggles with these topics? 

  • This movie is set in the mid-2000s. What are some of the ways in which the movie tries to evoke that time? What are some of the ways that movies in general that are set in the past try to recreate what it was like in that particular time period? 

Movie details

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