Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Tommaso Movie Poster Image
Mature, personal relationship drama won't be for everyone.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 115 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No strong messages here, except as pertains to everyday struggle of humans who are trying to become better people and sometimes failing. In the end, however, violence is chosen as a solution to a problem.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tommaso is shown as a person who continually works to overcome alcohol and drug use and to become a better person. He attends AA meetings and discusses his destructive past, hoping for a brighter future. But when faced with a new challenge, he resorts to violence.


Characters are shot and killed. Blood spatters. Fantasy/imagined image of someone pulling out his own heart. Brief, imagined scene of a child being hit by a car (only reactions shown). Character is crucified. Mention of beating someone's face. Character is handcuffed. Brief scene of violent video depicting bear attack. Raging, arguing.


Full-frontal female nudity in more than one scene. Man fondles a woman's breasts. Married couple kisses passionately, with caressing and moaning. A woman climbs on top of her husband and removes her underwear. Naked bottom shown. Sex is interrupted. Married characters kiss people besides their spouses. Extra-marital flirting.


Uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "damn," "hell," "goddamn," "balls."


American Idol shown on TV.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main character attends AA meetings and talks extensively about his past, including using cocaine and drinking. Drunk man sings in the street. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tommaso is a personal drama by veteran maverick filmmaker Abel Ferrara and his frequent star, Willem Dafoe, drawing on elements from both their lives. It's mostly about the main character's straightforward struggle to become a better father while dealing with relationship troubles, but it has brief moments of strong, shocking material. Language includes multiple uses of "f--k" and other words. There's more than one scene of full-frontal female nudity, an attempted sex scene (it's interrupted), and married people kissing other lovers. Guns are fired, and characters are killed, with blood spatters. A man pulls out his own heart and is shown crucified. A small girl runs out in front of a car in an imagined scene. There's also raging and arguing. AA meetings are shown, with open discussions about drinking and cocaine use. A secondary character is drunk, and a man smokes a cigarette.

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What's the story?

Filmmaker TOMMASO (Willem Dafoe) lives in Rome with his younger wife, Nikki (Cristina Chiriac), and their small daughter, Deedee (Anna Ferrara). Tommaso takes Italian language lessons, shops for food, teaches acting classes, goes to AA meetings, and tries to be a good family man. But Nikki, while devoting most of her attention to Deedee, has begun to ignore Tommaso -- or to argue with him. At the playground with Deedee, he spots something that sends him into a spiral. He starts fantasizing about other women, flirts, even kisses one of his students. Will Tommaso ever reconnect with his wife?

Is it any good?

An intensely personal drama drawn from the lives of its director and star, this searching, organic, somewhat rambling film may appeal mainly to their fans, but it's a strong effort nonetheless. Tommaso was written and directed by legendary maverick Abel Ferrara, who's been making tough, edgy genre movies since 1979. The star is four-time Oscar nominee Dafoe; this is his fifth feature with Ferrara. Ferrara, meanwhile, cast his own wife and daughter in the film, and the setup seems similar to Ferrara's own life. The character is even trying to find funding for his next movie.

Meanwhile, the acting class and a sequence of Tommaso doing yoga are borrowed from Dafoe's experiences. These things alone don't quite make a movie, but it shows how brave Tommaso really is. Even if it's not a very dynamic movie -- there's no fun, movie-insider material -- it builds a light simmer of suspense with its everyday struggles. Tommaso works hard to control his addictions, resisting his wicked past and reaching toward a clean, good, hopeful future. At the same time, the struggle between a married couple trying to keep their relationship alive after the birth of a child is also vivid and potent. Ferrara can't resist a few signature moments of exploitation and shock, but that only makes the movie even more personal.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Tommaso depicts drug and alcohol use. What's your reaction to secondary characters who drink and/or smoke? How do you think viewers are intended to feel about the characters at the AA meetings who keep fighting to be sober?

  • How frequently does the movie resort to violence? How strong is the imagery? What effect does it have?

  • How is sex depicted? What values are imparted?

  • What does "autobiographical" mean? How close can an artist get to depicting his or her real life in a movie or story?

  • How do the non-realistic/fantasy scenes in the movie contribute to telling the story? What do they mean, and what do they say about the character?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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