British crime comedy-thriller has strong language, violence.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tollbooth is a British dark comedy, with strong language and violence, about a toll booth operator on the England-Wales border, whose criminal past catches up with him. Known only as "Toll Booth," the lead character (Michael Smiley) is pragmatic but also ruthless and is motivated primarily by self-preservation. He is skilled but not a role model, unlike local police officer Catrin (Annes Elwy), who works hard to unravel the various mysteries caused by assorted criminal activity in the area. The violence is occasionally bloody and graphic and the characters' confrontations escalate, including one shot where we look through a bullet hole in someone's head. There are also severed body parts and brief nudity along with the violence. The swearing frequently includes variations of "f--k" and "c--t." Consumerism is shown as part of the underworld economy in which many characters thrive, barter, and bargain to improve their wealth and general standard of living and work. Drinking is less rare and mostly in moderation, although one character recklessly drinks while using a motorbike. Welsh is spoken instead of English in some scenes, reflective of the border town setting.
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What's the Story?
TOLLBOOTH tells the story of a toll booth operator (Michael Smiley) whose criminal activity and past slowly become exposed.
Is It Any Good?
This outrageous British crime-comedy prides itself on its desire to not be taken too seriously. Tollbooth deliberately makes the majority of its supporting characters larger than life and anchors the story around the quiet, nameless toll booth operator who wants to be able to put his past behind him. Lead actor Smiley unflinchingly delivers some of the movie's best deadpan humor as "Toll Booth," lightly sparring with small town cop Caitlin (Annes Elwy), who must suffer the eccentricities of the townsfolk while trying to restore law and order. Paul Kaye and Games of Thrones-star Iwan Rheon are one of several unofficial double-acts who throw themselves into playing their part in the chaos, weaving their way in and out of the main story.
For the most part, it's familiar but enjoyable stuff. However, at barely more than 80 minutes, Tollbooth does rush slightly toward its conclusion with several plot strands wrapped up in a hurry. And Smiley's character has his main opposition introduced too late for them to be little more than a plot device that sparks a final set piece. But there are enough decent jokes and strong performances to power the rest. It's a movie that suggests director Ryan Andrew Hooper has an eye for delivering stories with a sparky sense of fun.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the violence in Tollbooth. Did the comedic tone of the movie make the violent scenes less impactful? If so, why? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
Talk about the strong language used. Did it seem necessary or excessive? Was it needed to make the story more realistic?
Discuss Catrin's police work. What skills did she possess that made her good at her job? Why was this complicated by her relationship with some locals?
- On DVD or streaming: March 18, 2022
- Cast: Michael Smiley, Annes Elwy, Iwan Rheon
- Director: Ryan Andrew Hooper
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout and some violence
- Last updated: March 12, 2023
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