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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ad Astra is a stunning, thoughtful sci-fi drama starring Brad Pitt. The title is Latin for "through hardships to the stars," and while the film has all the trappings of a great space adventure, space travel is just the setting. This is really the emotional odyssey of a man who's trying to make peace with his conflicted feelings about his father (Tommy Lee Jones) -- and therefore it's not especially likely to entertain most teens. Still, Pitt's character, Major Roy McBride, is an admirable man -- courageous, calm, and thoughtful -- who's living in a future where it appears that race, gender, and age have equal professional footing. Sci-fi action includes guns, moon battles with explosions, solar flares, and other things that might go wrong in space, including a jarring animal attack that isn't shown but has gruesome results (which are shown). Characters die, including via a brief but intense/disturbing head explosion due to pressure issues. Much of the sound is muted through the quiet of a spacesuit, so this may be a good choice for those with audio sensitivities. Faith-focused families will appreciate elements such as prayer and positive acknowledgements of God's presence in the universe. Strong language is used sparingly but includes "hell" and "goddamn" and a possible use of "f--king."
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Ad Astra is a science-fiction drama starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, and Liv Tyler. It takes place i... Continue reading
What's the story?
Is it any good?
"Daddy issues" in all their forms may be humanity's greatest common experience, and so writer-director James Gray's space drama will be relatable to most adult viewers. Decades after his legendary father is presumed dead during a space exploration, Roy has come to realize that he's created a life that echoes his dad's -- perhaps as a connection, but also as an escape. Gray smartly uses the self-contained existence inside a spacesuit to represent the emotional barrier that Roy has created to prevent true human connection.
Every shot is perfectly arranged, and the cinematography and visual effects are stunning -- it's almost impossible to believe you're not truly passing by Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. And, get ready to see a different Brad Pitt. There's no sandwich eating or coffee slurping here -- in fact, one scene has Pitt hooking up to a feeding tube in space, almost as proof that he can act without his hallmark crutch. Portraying a calm, cool, collected character could be a challenge, but Pitt's eyes express everything; when the stoic major allows himself to express the smallest amount of emotion, it's the audience who cries.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Roy demonstrates self-control in Ad Astra. Why is that a positive character strength? Roy's self-control seems to have arrived at the cost of bottled-up emotions. Is there a healthy way to express yourself while retaining control?
What's the importance of human connection? Why is social connectedness different from person-to-person relationships? Do you think someone might choose loneliness?
What's your takeaway from the film? It's a transformative journey -- does that kind of story need to have a message? Do you think you'll notice and learn the lessons life teaches you?
What do you think about the film's prediction about the future of the moon as a tourist destination and war zone? What do you think the future of space travel will look like?
Author Arthur C. Clarke famously said, "Either we're not alone in the universe, or we are, and both are equally terrifying." What do you think?
- In theaters: September 20, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: December 17, 2019
- Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga
- Director: James Gray
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Courage, Self-control
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some violence and bloody images, and for brief strong language
- Last updated: February 11, 2020
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