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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie is too grim to glean many positive messages from, but supportive friendships do spring up between characters, and they find brief moments of joy in small things: a cache of soccer balls, fish in a pond. Themes of courage, teamwork are clear, despite the gloom.
Positive Role Models
Estrella, Shine, and Morro are remarkable characters, very young children with more courage and tenacity than many adults. Adult characters run the gamut from uninterested and/or absent to villainous. Some regressive gender messages, such as when Shine calls other boys "Disney princesses" to imply that they're cowardly, and when the all-male gang initially doesn't want to accept Estrella because she's a girl.
Violence & Scariness
Violence and menace are unrelenting, often horrifying: Characters, including parents and young children, are killed on-screen with blood, brief glimpses of gore. Deaths occur suddenly, and viewers see dead bodies at length, including images of bloody and decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic. Young children are asked to commit murder, are chased by adult men with guns screaming that they're going to kill them. Legends are told about satanic rituals involving chopped-up children's bodies. A young girl has visions of dark, terrifying ghosts, a bloody line that follows her, snakes, and dead bodies, including that of her mother. A man screams at a young girl "I'm going to loosen you up, slut!" implying he plans to rape her (he doesn't). Children live in utter poverty, sleeping in the street and scrounging/stealing food and anything they can sell.
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Language is in Spanish, subtitled in English: "f--king," "s--t," "ass," "son of a bitch." Characters, including children, use insulting language toward each other: "a--hole," "motherf----r," "f--ker," "a--hat," "p---ywipe," "butthead," "bitch," "moron," "retards," and "puta."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drugs are the motivating force behind the mayhem of this movie, but viewers never see anyone using them, though a character does sway as if drunk, so out of it that he doesn't realize his phone and gun are being stolen.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tigers Are Not Afraid is a very dark, violent drama with many elements of horror. Dialogue is in Spanish, with English subtitles. Young children (ranging in age from 4 to 10) are in constant mortal danger from ruthless adult drug lords. The villains beat a woman and then shoot her, and they threaten to kill the children (at one point, one also threatens to rape a 10-year-old girl). One of the kids sees monstrous visions of her dead mother, snakes, and decomposed walking corpses. Children tell each other scary stories about the drug lords: that they kidnap children, dismember them, and use them in satanic rituals. Deaths occur suddenly, with blood and some gore, and viewers see bloody dead bodies wrapped in plastic and heaped in piles. Among all this horror, the young main characters are courageous and (mostly) supportive of each other -- though they use very insulting language toward each other ("moron," "a--hat," "puta," "f--ker," etc.), and there are some regressive gender messages (such as when boys are called "Disney princesses" to imply they're cowardly). Drugs are the background reason for all of the terrible things that happen; viewers never see anyone using them, but one man is shown swaying and out of it. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This divinely chilling foreign import chooses a dire setting -- a cartel-devastated border town -- to tell a fairy tale that's both horrifying and emotionally affecting. Tigers Are Not Afraid starts as a classroom lesson on folklore is disrupted by gunfire, during which Estrella's teacher comforts her by pressing three pieces of chalk into her hand, explaining that they're three wishes for her, just like in the storybooks. Estrella's first wish, though, goes awry (Monkey's Paw-style), as her plea for her missing mother to return brings back a terrifying revenant who whispers to her from empty food cannisters and dark corners, pleading with her to bring Chino to the place where the dead uneasily rest.
Estrella's everyday waking world is no less terrifying, with things going from bad to worse as first Caco and then Chino vow to wipe the gang out. It's whispered that the two are bogeymen, that they perform satanic rituals with the dismembered bodies of the children they capture. In fairy tales, innocence and bravery are always strong enough to defeat evil and power. But in real life, the good are often punished along with the bad, and things rarely end happily ever after. As Estrella, Shine, and the rest of the desperate children use every tool at their disposal to run, hide, and fight back, this dark fable ticks down to a startling finale that's worth every tear viewers will cry over it.
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.