What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Elephant is Gus Van Sant's Palme d'Or-winning drama, which is loosely based on the infamous 1999 Columbine high school shootings. It's deliberately mysterious and opaque, following several characters throughout the day and observing that they are all dealing with personal troubles, with little or no adult help. It contains some shocking violence, namely two teen boys shooting and killing people at school (with blood shown). Language is strong, but mainly during the final stretch, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Teen couples are shown kissing, and two boys are shown showering and kissing (though seen only above the waist). There's also a very brief glimpse of a naked bottom in a girls' locker room. A teen's father is shown to have a drinking problem, and there's a brief scene of cafeteria workers smoking pot. Though rated R, parents might consider the movie as a discussion-starter for mature high school teens.
- Families can talk about the movie's violence. How is it portrayed differently than some other movie violence? What is the effect? What would the movie be like without the blood and other graphic scenes?
- How many adults dare in the movie? How many are helpful, or compassionate, toward teens? What is the movie's message about the role of adults in teen life?
- What are some of the issues the teens in the movie are dealing with? How realistic are these issues? Do you think the movie paints a darker-than-average picture of high school life?