A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Z for Zachariah is a postapocalyptic drama that focuses on a love triangle between three survivors of nuclear devastation. There aren't any battle scenes or grisly effects, but scenes do have underlying tension and vague threats, and characters speak about horrible things they saw after the disaster. A death/murder is hinted at but is left ambiguous; rifles are shown and fired. A woman kisses two different men; sex is implied in one case. She's shown in her bra and is intimate and comfortable with a man (i.e. dancing). Brief language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "damn." Adult characters get drunk on beer and wine. The movie features some teamwork, but there's a betrayal close at hand. And while Ann is selfless and helpful and can take care of herself, she's also easily manipulated.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In the wake of a nuclear disaster that's left the world a radioactive wasteland, a farmer named Ann (Margot Robbie) somehow survives, untouched by the destruction. She grows food, hunts, and gets water from a well. Then a stranger wearing a radiation suit, Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), stumbles into her world. Ann nurses the sick man back to health, and Loomis, a skilled engineer, helps her prepare for the coming winter, teaching her things and building new energy sources. They slowly fall in love, but their world is further disrupted by the appearance of Caleb (Chris Pine), a blue-eyed smooth-talker who seems to know how to get what he wants. Can the trio survive, or will their volatile chemistry come to a head?
Is it any good?
This postapocalyptic drama does away with mutated monsters, evil power mongers, chases, explosions, and grisly effects and simply, effectively focuses on the deeds and emotions of three people. Robbie is wonderful, embodying a kind of spiritual, earthy innocence, while her beauty sneaks out almost as if by itself. Ejiofor plays a similarly complex role, patient and kind, but with a dark side, and Pine is efficient as a smoldering bad boy.
Z FOR ZACHARIAH doesn't delve into its backdrop very deeply, and it doesn't really use its essence as part of the love triangle. The characters' story seems to happen all on its own, regardless of the state of the world; there's very little feeling of the threat lurking at the edges of the story. But the movie's efforts to zoom in on its characters and forgo sci-fi cliches are admirable and efficient. The characters' strong chemistry and conflict are enough to make this one worth seeing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Z for Zachariah depicts sex. How do the two men each view Ann? How does this add to their characters? What significance does sex play in the story? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values on these topics.
Why do you think the characters drink? Is drinking portrayed as appropriate and pleasurable or overdone and destructive?
What's the appeal of the postapocalyptic subgenre of sci-fi? What can these kinds of movies teach us about the way we live now? Did you miss not having mutants, chases, fights, etc. in this movie? Why or why not?
- In theaters: August 28, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 20, 2015
- Cast: Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Pine
- Director: Craig Zobel
- Studios: Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: a scene of sexuality, partial nudity, and brief strong language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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