Leave the World Behind Parent Guide
The film masterfully builds tension, adding layer upon layer of uncertainty.
Parent Movie Review
The fate of Amanda Sandford’s (Julia Roberts) family turns on her insomnia. Unable to sleep, Amanda impulsively goes online and books a weekend rental on Long Island. An escape from other people, she believes, is just what her family needs.
Amanda, her husband, Clay (Ethan Hawke), and children, Archie and Rose (Charlie Evans and Farrah Mackenzie) are delighted with the large, airy house. Time spent by the pool is followed by a trip to the beach – where the vacation takes a turn for the worse. Amanda’s strained nerves have barely recovered when she hears a knock at the door.
Outside the house stand a man and young woman in evening dress. The man introduces himself as G.H. Scott (Mahershala Ali), owner of the house they are renting. A power outage in NYC spurred his trip to his home and he hopes to stay the night along with his daughter, Ruth (Myha’la).
Amanda and Clay are rattled by the Scotts’ appearance; Amanda is overwhelmed by suspicion that bleeds into paranoia. This is where the movie hits its stride - frightened strangers, unsure of what’s happening in the outside world, trapped in a house together. With cell phones and the internet down, there’s no way to know for sure who people really are or what’s going on…
Leave the World Behind is a wonderfully unsettling movie. It masterfully builds tension, adding layer upon layer of uncertainty. Through the first acts, it’s not even clear what kind of movie this is going to be – a thriller? A psychological horror flick? A natural disaster or war movie? We are as much in the dark as the characters, anxiously awaiting more information.
The uncertainty in the plot magnifies the weaknesses in the characters. Amanda is forced to address her constant anger and misanthropy. G.H. must confront information he has received but didn’t want to believe. And Clay discovers his own capacity for self-preservation in a crisis. All of the cast members deliver solid performances that never distract from the movie’s story.
More than just excavating its characters’ flaws, this script exposes the fractures in American society. It illustrates the corrosive effects of suspicion, division, mistrust, and conspiracism, and demonstrates how they exacerbate the crisis at the heart of the narrative.
This is a taut, edge-of-your-seat film, with a suitably eerie soundtrack, but it comes with enough negative content for a Restricted rating. There are some violent scenes, including planes crashing and dead, dismembered bodies found on a beach. A character also gets ill, vomits blood, and spits out teeth. Stressed adults are seen getting drunk and vaping marijuana. Characters of all ages use a significant amount of profanity, including over 30 sexual expletives.
Leave the World Behind is one of the most interesting movies I’ve watched all year. I never knew what was coming, never got bored (a minor miracle in this job), and spent the entire runtime glued to the screen and speculating about the plot. I was worried that the story’s resolution wouldn’t equal the wind-up – and I was right. The ending feels like a bit of an anti-climax, but getting there is such a tense ride that I’m not going to complain.Directed by Sam Esmail. Starring Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke. Running time: 138 minutes. Theatrical release December 8, 2023. Updated December 9, 2023
Watch the trailer for Leave the World Behind
Leave the World Behind
Rating & Content Info
Why is Leave the World Behind rated R? Leave the World Behind is rated R by the MPAA for language, some sexual content, drug use and brief bloody images.
Violence: The soundtrack contains a song about killing people. An oil tanker beaches, spraying sand and water and possibly harming people. A house is surrounded by debris; the interior also looks ransacked. Bodies, bloody and dismembered, are briefly seen on a beach. A plane crashes and the impact blows out the windows in a house. A person removes a tick, showing some blood. Explosions are heard off screen. Sonic blasts cause pain to people. Unoccupied self-driving cars cause collisions. A pamphlet says “Death to America”. A character’s teeth start falling out; he spits blood and later vomits blood. Explosions go off in New York City, triggering giant plumes of fiery smoke. People point guns at each other.
Sexual Content: There is suggested sexual activity between a married couple. A young man photographs a woman without her consent and then masturbates to the pictures (there is no detail beyond the movements of his bedding). Song lyrics refer to sex in some detail. A young woman is seen wearing a very skimpy bikini.
Profanity: The script contains 38 sexual expletives, 11 scatological curses, and a smattering of terms of deity, minor profanities, and anatomical terms.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults drink alcohol frequently and get drunk on one occasion. An adult smokes cigarettes. Adults vape marijuana (which is legal in New York) and get stoned.
Page last updated December 9, 2023
Leave the World Behind Parents' Guide
Do you think G.H. is correct in identifying the cause of the disasters overwhelming the country? What other events do you think could cause these problems?
Why is Amanda so suspicious of G.H.? What changes her attitude?
Clay says that he is a “useless man” without access to cell phones or the internet. How dependent are you on electronic devices? Do you have backups in case they fail? Are you prepared for emergency situations? What could you do to improve your personal/family level of preparedness? What’s the difference between preparation and paranoia?
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Another end-of-the-world movie produced by Netflix is Don’t Look Up, the story of astronomers who try to warn politicians about an approaching comet that could destroy planet Earth.