Butter (2022) Parent Guide
This isn't a perfect film but it is an earnest one, filled with empathy for teens and their mental health challenges.
Parent Movie Review
How many of us have painful memories of our years in high school? Be it academic challenges, mental health issues, bullying, or social ostracism, the high school years can put teens through the wringer. In Butter, the hazards of high school just might be lethal.
The movie’s title refers to the nickname of the film’s protagonist, a senior with a ready pen, a sense of humor, and an amazing talent for playing jazz on the saxophone. He also weighs 423 pounds, a fact that overshadows every other aspect of his life, gutting his self esteem and making him a target for high school bullies. Faced with the choice of being bullied or invisible, Butter finally decides on a third option: he’s going to eat himself to death online on New Year’s Eve. Buoyed up by his decision, he sets up a website and suggestions for his last meal start pouring in.
Oddly enough, Butter’s final meal plan gains him a strange sort of popularity at school as kids who have previously ignored or belittled him start hanging out with him. As they do, they learn that there’s more to this kid than his weight. Butter, in turn, decides that life might be worth living after all…until the consequences of his past choices start crashing down on him.
I have mixed feelings about Butter. There is a legitimate concern that troubled teens will watch this film and decide that a suicidal stunt is a great way to either feel better or gain attention from their peers. On the flip side, the movie does have some strong positive messages, particularly those that encourage teens to reach out for help. Over and over again, adults and peers reach out to Butter and he repeatedly rejects them – but they still try. For teens, understanding that they can choose to seek help – and that life can get better – is critical.
More importantly, this story can serve as a catalyst for serious conversations with teens. Parents can use this movie as a way to discuss the ugliness of the online world: seeing teens send Butter suggestions for how to kill himself and then livestream his final meal is stomach-churning. Sadly, in the darkest corners the web, people do encourage others to kill themselves, and teenagers are uniquely vulnerable. This film has the potential to forewarn teens against this kind of online evil, showing them that when they reach out to others, when they are kind and inclusive, they have the power to push back against the awfulness of the internet. If this film encourages anyone to reach out to someone who is socially isolated, it’s definitely worth watching.
Butter also carries powerful messages about judging based on appearances, and, surprisingly, those don’t just come from Butter himself. The movie obviously condemns those who judge Butter based on his weight but the “hot girl”, Anna (McKaley Miller) delivers an impassioned rant about how much she hates being judged for her looks. It’s as powerful as it is unexpected and it’s worth watching.
This isn’t a perfect film. The acting is sometimes stilted and the narration is occasionally awkward. But it is an earnest film, filled with affection for teenagers and empathy for their challenges. If you want to open up discussions with your teen about mental illness, bullying, kindness, or making choices, this film could be a good place to start.Directed by Paul A. Kaufman. Starring Mira Sorvino, Alex Kersting, Mykelti Williamson. Running time: 110 minutes. Theatrical release February 25, 2022. Updated February 26, 2022
Watch the trailer for Butter (2022)
Rating & Content Info
Why is Butter (2022) rated PG-13? Butter (2022) is rated PG-13 by the MPAA Mature thematic content involving suicide, crude sexual material, language, and drinking - all involving teens.
Violence: A character frequently talks about ways to kill himself. A group of teens push another teen to the ground and force feed him butter. A character slaps a man’s face. One character punches another. A teenager tries to commit suicide as others watch. A person deliberately eats a food that triggers anaphylaxis.
Sexual Content: Characters occasionally make crude sexual comments.
Profanity: There are over two dozen profanities, including over a dozen crude anatomical terms, seven scatological curses, four minor profanities, and four terms of deity. There is a single sexual hand gesture. Crude terms for women are used on three occasions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults drink alcohol in a bar. A person considers vodka as part of a suicide plan. A teenager carries a pitcher of beer to be shared with his underage friends. Teenagers drink alcohol and play beer pong. Teenagers drink at a party: one gets drunk and vomits.
Page last updated February 26, 2022
Butter (2022) Parents' Guide
Why does Butter want to kill himself? Why doesn’t he talk to the people around him who are willing to help? Have you ever struggled to ask for or accept help?
What resources are available in your community for teens dealing with mental illness?
Global: Child Helpline International
Related home video titles:
Adolescent mental illness and suicide are themes of All the Bright Places. The after effects of a teenager’s suicide are examined in the musical Dear Evan Hansen. A teenager suffering from depression finds himself hospitalized in It’s Kind of a Funny Story. The Perks of Being a Wallflowertakes a gritty look at the social challenges of high school.
The dangers of bullying are exposed in the documentary, Dark Cloud. A young teen is bullied by kids in his new community and uses martial arts to develop self confidence in The Karate Kid. Having accidentally travelled back in time, a teenager meets his youthful parents and helps his father stand up to a bully in Back to the Future.