The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet

Movie review by
Yvonne Condes, Common Sense Media
The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet Movie Poster Image
Sad, beautiful tale of boy genius and tragic gun accident.
  • PG
  • 2015
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The message that comes through at the end is that people's differences should be embraced. But throughout much of the movie, T.S., his mother, his sister, and his father all feel isolated because they're different. One mention about the dangers of letting children handle without supervision.

Positive Role Models & Representations

T.S. is brilliant and brave. He continues to do his work even though his father thinks it's useless, his mother ignores it, and his teacher screams at him. But he also does many dangerous things, including crawling under a moving freight train, jumping off a moving bridge to the other side, and hitchhiking. He tells everyone he's an orphan. His mother is brilliant but barely pays attention to her children. After Layton is killed, she dies a little inside and can't help her other kids work through it. T.S.' father isn't kind or compassionate to anyone, including his wife. G.H. Jibsen is an unethical, manipulative binge drinker.

Violence

A boy shoots a gun more than once (including at a can tied to a cat with a string); it's revealed that he dies in a gun accident (not shown, but described in vivid detail). Also shooting in a movie, and a photo shows a soldier holding a rifle to a man's head. Potentially upsetting moments involving animals include stuffed game, a calf being branded, a snake being shot, and a goat getting caught in a fence and cut up. A teacher yells in a boy's face. A runaway boy takes lots of risks, including jumping on a train car and a moving bridge (the latter results in an injury) and hitchhiking. T.S.' dead brother appears and talks to him.

Sex

The parents touch hands, and it's implied that they made up because the mother is pregnant at the end of the movie. Scientific explanation of how babies are produced.

Language

Swearing isn't constant but does include strong words: "piss," "crap," "s--t," "f--," and even "motherf----r." Also exclamations such as "oh God" and "Jesus Christ."

Consumerism

Baskin Robbins.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

T.S.' dad drinks, gets angry, and breaks his glass in his hand. G.H. Jibsen drinks heavily when T.S. does a talk show. Guests at an award show drink wine and cocktails.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, based on the novel by Reif Larsen, is a sad, sweet tale about a brilliant boy (Kyle Catlett) who runs away to receive an award he won from the Smithsonian shortly after his twin brother is accidently killed in a gun accident. There are many references to guns -- T.S.' dad is a cowboy rancher who tries to live like he's in the Old West and brands a calf, shoots a rattlesnake, and has stuffed game on the wall, along with an arsenal of guns. At one point, T.S. discusses his brother's death in graphic detail, though it's not shown. Scenes of peril include T.S. hanging from a bridge, crawling under a moving train, and hitchhiking with a creepy trucker. There's also some drinking, punching people out, and swearing (including "horses--t" and even "motherf----r"). Ultimately, this is a sometimes incredibly moving and beautiful, sometimes strange (why is the dog talking?), and sometimes funny movie, but it isn't for younger kids.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written byhike4diamonds May 14, 2016

Don't be misled by the PG rating...

I saw the rating was PG rather than PG-13 and presumed it to be appropriate for my 7 and 9 year old boys. Wrong! Every time I fail to consult Common Sense Media... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett) is a boy genius living on a beautiful ranch in Montana with his cowboy dad (Callum Keith Rennie), scientist mother (Helena Bonham Carter), teenage sister (Niamh Wilson), and twin brother. A terrible accident leaves T.S. guilt ridden and isolated, so -- after winning a contest from the Smithsonian for making a perpetual motion machine -- he runs away to collect his prize. His plan leads him on an incredible and emotional adventure.

Is it any good?

This offbeat, melancholy film, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie), starts out quirky and then turns tragically sad as more information about what happened to T.S.' twin brother is revealed. The scenery is gorgeous, and the acting is wonderful -- especially on the part of Catlett, who plays T.S. He's compelling and tragic, which makes it easy to feel T.S.' isolation and guilt. His father doesn't appreciate T.S.' brilliance (or his wife's) and ends up being somewhat one-dimensional, though Bonham Carter is sympathetic as T.S.' dotty mother, Dr. Clair, who increasingly turns inward after the accident.

It takes a long time for anyone to take responsibility for allowing T.S. and his brother to play with guns -- or to acknowledge that their living son is in pain, which won't be easy for parents to watch. The story is moving and sometimes magical, but at other times odd (the dog starts talking), which takes you out of the story a bit. Overall, THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET is a good, sweet film, but it's not for younger kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role that guns play in The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. Do you talk about gun safety with your family? What's the impact on kids of seeing violence -- including gun violence -- in the media?

  • T.S. is upset with his parents and runs away. Kids: Have you ever felt so upset with an adult that you felt like running away? How did you get past that feeling? What are the dangers of doing what T.S. did? What can we learn from his story?

  • Do you think G.H. Jibsen was exploiting T.S. by making him speak to a crowd and coaching him before he went on a TV show? What do you do when people try to make you do things you don't feel comfortable doing?

Movie details

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