A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Themes include the importance of family, communication, acceptance, and embracing change.
Positive Role Models
Both parents are trying to find themselves and take care of their kids' various needs while also trying to enjoy newfound love. They're also flawed; college professor Charlie ended up getting divorced and fired because he had an inappropriate relationship with a student, for example.
A non-binary character is portrayed positively and compassionately. The setting of Columbus, Ohio, setting is presented as quite White (nearly 60 percent of the city's residents are White). Two minor Black characters are depicted positively. A teen boy expresses his emotions and hurt, although he also relies on drugs to ease his pain.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission/sadism) lifestyle is depicted positively, including bondage, whippings, ball gags, leather masks, and extensive discussion of dominants and submissives. Sex toys shown include dildos, a vibrator, and nipple clamps (shown on a woman's breasts). Part of a man's bare bottom is exposed. Couple is watching porn (not shown on screen). A couple's divorce is prompted by one spouse's inappropriate relationship with a much younger partner.
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Strong language includes "bulls--t," "s--t," and a few uses of "f--k." "P---y" used to suggest that someone is weak. A word pronounced as "coke" is humorously mispronounced as "c--k." "Jesus" used as an exclamation.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Extensive drug use, depicted with mixed messages. Nearly every character (teen and parent) participates in cannabis use, which is portrayed as being fun and stress-relieving, and it's said "no one ever died from pot." A teen is shown putting acid tabs on his tongue, which leads to consequences. Teen smokes. Adults drink wine and beer in moderation.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that They/Them/Us is an edgy dramedy about a blended family with four teenagers. Charlie Goldman (Joey Slotnick) is a college professor who's newly divorced and in a new job, both due to his inappropriate relationship with a student. In the wake of the divorce, Charlie's son Danny (Jack Steiner) has become overly reliant on pot. Charlie is trying to stop Danny from smoking so much, but Charlie himself is shown smoking it repeatedly, and teens are shown bonding while getting high. Danny eventually tries something harder; there are consequences, but some viewers may still perceive drug use as fun. Adults drink, too, and there's a lot of sex content, as Charlie is trying to keep up with his new girlfriend Lisa's (Amy Hargreaves) interest in the BDSM scene. The film serves as something of a primer on that world: Scenes feature leather whips, black masks/bondage gear, sex toys, and nipple clamps on Lisa's exposed breasts. Families of faith should be aware that there's a comparison to sexual "Doms" and God that's intended to be funny. Occasional strong language includes "s--t" and "f--k." Underneath all of the mature content are messages about the importance of family, communication, acceptance, and embracing change. The movie's title is a specific reference to one of the couple's teens, who has recently come out as gender neutral. The film shows how emotionally challenging that can be in a society that's still becoming educated on pronoun usage. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
"Kinky" and "family comedy" are words that you might not expect to see together, but director Jon Sherman's film is oddly charming and somehow works -- at least for adults. Thinking about parents having sex is something that many teens would prefer never to do; the idea of parents engaging in rough sex with whips and ball gags is all the more alarming. Of course, it's also what makes They/Them/Us funny, particularly because Slotnick and Hargreaves present as run-of-the-mill middle-aged parents. In fact, all of the actors are pitch perfect for their roles. Jack Steiner and Lexie Bean (who play teens Danny and Maddie) are fantastic discoveries; they're both so vulnerable and yet funny in their roles as, respectively, a kid dealing with a drug problem and one with a newly declared gender identity.
Just like life, the movie's plot points and character beats are overwhelmingly full, and it's a feat that it all actually functions together. There's Charlie as a fish out of water in the BDSM scene, his new relationship with Lisa, Danny's drug dependency, Maddie's struggles after coming out as non-binary, Charlie's new job working as a film professor at an evangelical college, and the complications from Charlie's divorce. The film's overarching theme is one of acceptance: Charlie accepts Lisa for her sexual desires, and they work to educate those around them about the best way to support Maddie. While there's less time for the other two teens, Sherman gives all of the younger characters a strong voice: They're heard, and what they say may help adult viewers understand how significantly divorce and dating can affect their children, even those who are almost adults. All of this said, as smoothly as the movie's first half goes, the second act really drags. The heartfelt feelings and emotional hardship end up weighing the film down at that point; it wallows when it should be chugging along. All the bits set into motion have to be resolved authentically, and Sherman somewhat paints himself into a corner with everything he set up earlier. Still, adults open to a wild ride will likely enjoy and get something out of They/Them/Us, even if their teens want to stay away.
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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.
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