When the Bough Breaks

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
When the Bough Breaks Movie Poster Image
Likable characters can't save forgettable, violent thriller.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Basically, the movie is a warning against trusting anyone, ever.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main couple is kind and loving (they even throw a fundraising banquet for the Boys and Girls Club), but they eventually resort to violence to save the day.


A man abuses his girlfriend, smacking her face on more than one occasion; blood and bruises are shown. A man is stabbed with a knife and knocked down stairs. A gory, rotting corpse is shown, with maggots. Fighting, punching, kicking, beating with sharp and blunt objects. Rifle fired. Razor blade in tub, with a trickle of blood shown. Mangled, bloody cat corpse. Discussions of past sexual abuse, stabbings. Mean, barking dog.


Tender love scenes between a married couple, including kissing and a dress being unzipped. Mild sex scene, but no nudity. A woman does sexy stripteases, lounges in black lingerie, bathes in a tub. A married man kisses a woman who isn't his wife.


Fairly infrequent language includes "s--t," "goddamn," "bitch," "hell," "ass," "dick," "frickin'," and "oh my God" (as an exclamation).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man drinks at a bar and seems drunk (he then goes home and grabs a beer from the fridge). Several scenes of social drinking, mostly wine and hard liquor. A man smokes a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that When the Bough Breaks is a thriller about a surrogate who threatens the biological parents of the baby she's carrying. Though the main couple is likable, it's all very routine and forgettable, not very smart, and pretty violent. A man abuses his girlfriend, and there are additional beatings, plus stabbings; a gory, rotting corpse (with maggots); gun use; some blood and injuries; and discussions of sexual abuse. While there's no graphic nudity, there is kissing and a sex scene, plus scenes of stripteases and flirting. Language is infrequent but includes uses of "s--t," "bitch," and "ass." Adult characters drink on social occasions, and one character smokes a cigarette and gets drunk.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

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

Teen, 17 years old Written byTornadosplash44 December 17, 2016

Disturbing film about an insane surrogate isn't bad but isn't great either

This movie was different, but it wasn't a film I would rave about because I wanted a little bit more of a plot. However, the violence and acting were good.... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byUnknown101 September 18, 2016

This was Crazzy

This movie was really good the may be some sex sence in it but no nudity shown this movie is appropriate for 14 and 15 years old so if you are a child and your... Continue reading

What's the story?

In WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS, lawyer John Taylor (Morris Chestnut) and his wife, Laura (Regina Hall), a chef, want to have a baby but can't. Opting to try a surrogate, they find Anna (Jaz Sinclair), a young woman who seems perfect for the job. Everyone agrees, and the pregnancy is a success. Then Anna's boyfriend, Mike (Theo Rossi), beats her up, and the Taylors agree to take her in. Meanwhile, Anna falls in love with the gentle, loving John and starts acting inappropriately toward him. At the same time, Mike continues to plot, trying to figure out ways to blackmail the Taylors. But very soon, he'll be the least of their troubles.

Is it any good?

Thrillers in which seemingly harmless outsiders worm their way into safe, secure, middle-class homes and then threaten them were popular in the '90s; this one feels like a pale copy. The good news is that stars Chestnut and Hall (who've also appeared together in The Best Man, Think Like a Man, and The Best Man Holiday) portray the Taylors as a likable couple worth rooting for. And Sinclair has an appealingly mesmerizing presence that sells her ultimate turn to evil.

But Rossi's Mike is an overcooked bad-guy boyfriend, and he signals the dumb, violent third act, in which nothing makes any sense. Attacks come from out of nowhere, and characters seem to be able to suddenly move across rooms without making any noise. By the time When the Bough Breaks' climax happens, it almost feels like the whole movie was just heading nowhere all along -- as if the marketing were more important than the storytelling. At least character actor Michael Kenneth Williams shows up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in When the Bough Breaks. Is it disturbing, thrilling, or both? How does the movie differentiate between these types of violence? How does it leave you feeling?

  • How does the movie handle its sexual material? What role does sex play in the characters' relationships? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding these topics.

  • This movie is part of a subgenre in which characters enter a domestic situation and then turn violent. What's the appeal of these kinds of movies? Why are they scary, thrilling, or entertaining?

  • Are there any role models here? If so, who and why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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