A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Filmmaker seems to be saying something here -- or lots of things -- though it's not clear exactly what. Violence and conflict seem to be part of it, as well as (perhaps) idea that things captured by digital format may or may not be real. As with many experimental movies, viewers will likely come away with different ideas. Ultimately, the movie is a challenge, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Positive Role Models
JJ is the only real character in the movie, and his behavior is often iffy, while his goals and achievements are fuzzy.
Main character is a flawed White man; other characters are seen for very little time. Two Asian women are shown in a situation drawn from stereotype and objectified in the process (they're depicted kissing and caressing each other). Most characters are European.
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Violence & Scariness
Person tortured via waterboarding. Dead people shown covered in blood spatters, with more blood spatters on the wall. Other dead bodies. Explosions. Main character with gun. Soldiers with guns. Boxing.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A woman seduces the main character, removing his shirt and kissing him. Two scantily clad women kiss and caress each other. Naked man depicted in Michelangelo painting.
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A few uses of "f--king." Also "s--t," "motherf----r," "c--ksucker," and a use of "p---y."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
JJ buys drugs (white powder). Character injects drugs into his hand. Cigarette butts shown. Character drinks vodka from the bottle; others drink vodka shots with dinner. Characters drink sparkling wine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Zeros and Ones is an experimental drama by cult-favorite filmmaker Abel Ferrara. It follows an American soldier (Ethan Hawke) in Rome during the COVID-19 pandemic who's trying to stop a bombing. The movie is full of strange, intriguing imagery and ideas, and mature viewers are bound to come away with differing interpretations. Violent scenes and images include a character being tortured via waterboarding, dead women covered in spattered blood, soldiers with guns, buildings exploding, and more. Someone seduces the main character, kissing him and removing his shirt, and two scantily clad women kiss and caress each other. Language includes a few uses of "f--king," "motherf----r," "c--ksucker," "s--t," and "p---y." The main character buys drugs (heroin?), and another character injects a drug into his hand. Characters drink vodka shots, vodka out of the bottle, and sparkling wine, and cigarette butts are seen. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Abel Ferrara goes even more deeply than usual into uncommercial experimental mode here, delivering an opaque, baffling movie. Zeros and Ones hardly has any plot, but it does offer a series of nervy ideas and undeniable sensations. If Ferrara's Tommaso and Siberia appealed mainly to the cult director's die-hard fans, then Zeros and Ones makes those two films look positively mainstream, like multiplex popcorn-munchers. This film recalls Jean-Luc Godard's arty, post-New Wave work or Terrence Malick's more polarizing offerings, wandering from one unexpected moment to something else that feels totally disconnected, with various thoughts like "a hard road leads to a real life" expressed seemingly at random.
The pandemic -- and images of hand-washing and masks -- are among the most familiar things in the movie, providing something of an anchor but also indicating more uncertainty. Hawke is the only other familiar thing here. The movie opens with a video of him introducing the movie and ends with another video of him trying to make sense of what we've just seen. He closes with "yes, this is part of the film." Even the title, Zeros and Ones, is unclear, unless it refers to the digital format in which the movie was made. Whatever Ferrara is trying to say here, whether it's about conflict or acts of violence or something else, it's told by a veteran filmmaker who hasn't lost any of his fire. It's a tough, tricky movie that's worth unpacking.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.