A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that You're Not You is a frank description of the steady decline of a concert pianist named Kate (Hilary Swank) who's diagnosed with the fatal degenerative disease ALS when she's 35. The film depicts her and those around her in all their frailty and human failings as they struggle to cope with the devastation of her condition. Adults and children alike may find it difficult to watch Swank's expert portrayal of diminishing physical capacity, including incomprehensible speech and labored breathing. The movie addresses questions of invasive, life-prolonging procedures and how decisions about them should be made. Children 13 and younger will understand the issues but may find them too emotional to handle. Expect strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more), scenes of implied sex (no nudity), drinking, and marijuana use.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Concert pianist Kate (Hilary Swank) is living the ideal life with her handsome, devoted husband (Josh Duhamel), when Lou Gherig's disease (ALS) strikes her down at age 35. The strain of her care leads him to stray with his secretary, and -- in a fit of guilt for the way her illness has robbed him of their once wonderful life -- she kicks him out. Around the same time, Kate inexplicably hires Bec (Emmy Rossum), an irresponsible college student, to care for her. Bec gradually leaves her selfish ways behind as she warms to Kate and dedicates herself to her care. Kate pegs Bec for the perfect representative to stand up to family and advisors when the inevitable moment for a respirator arrives. Bec keeps her promise and brings Kate home from the hospital to die.
Is it any good?
Early developments in YOU'RE NOT YOU's plot -- i.e., Kate hiring the unqualified Bec, and Bec's rebirth as a compassionate caretaker -- feel forced and unbelievable. But once the writers awkwardly work their way around the transformation of the distant, foul-mouthed, and insensitive Bec into a reliable, emotionally supportive advocate and friend, the movie is beautifully executed and emotionally true.
It's worth noting that in its advocacy for a patient's right to die without the use of invasive procedures, the film ignores the kind of palliative care provided by hospice, which allows patients to avoid mechanical intervention (a ventilator) but offers, for example, morphine to ease the suffering of respiratory failure. Perhaps the filmmakers feared such a choice would have lessened the drama of Kate's death. In any case, the performances here are moving and strong. While the content will, on its face, be understandable to children 10 and above, relationship subtleties may go over their head, and they may find the subjects of disability and inevitable, painful death too difficult to bear.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how tragedy brings out the best in some people and the worst in others. Why do you think that is? Which characters in You're Not You fall into each category?
How might caring for a sick person bring out the best in a person who has previously been selfish and insensitive?
Do you think the characters are intended to be role models? How can you tell?
Why do you think a terminally ill patient might prefer to die at home without medical intervention rather than immobilized by a respirator?
- In theaters: October 10, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: April 14, 2015
- Cast: Hilary Swank, Emmy Rossum, Josh Duhamel
- Director: George C. Wolfe
- Studio: Entertainment One
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexual content, language and brief drug use
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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