Life in a Year Parent Guide
Teen romances usually focus on sexual attraction so it's a relief to see a film where love is more than hormones.
Parent Movie Review
Opposites attract, so they say, and that seems to be true of Daryn (Jaden Smith) and Isabelle (Cara Delevingne). Daryn is diligently following his father’s blueprint for success – excel in academics and track, go to an Ivy League school, and enjoy a life of wealth and security. Isabelle is a high school dropout who works at an ice cream store. Beneath her ever-changing pastel-hued hair, she’s unconventional, defiant, fiercely independent, and incredibly attractive to the buttoned-down young man.
Isabelle also has terminal ovarian cancer.
When Daryn hears about her diagnosis, his management skills come to the fore. Determined to give her a lifetime of milestones in her remaining months, he gets out his planning calendar and post-it notes and starts scheduling their truncated future. The young couple go house-hunting, blow out birthday candles, and get a pet fish. A good time is had by all until Isabelle feels the weight of the larger milestones she will never see and which can’t be manufactured…
Teen weepies are an enduringly popular genre: for some reason, young female audiences enjoy bawling their eyes out over the untimely death of another young woman. I can’t explain it, but I think they are moved by the devotion of the young man; the idea that a man can be so dedicated to a woman that he will stay with her in any extremity. Daryn certainly fits the bill for this kind of romantic hero. Considering he’s a high school senior, his commitment is nothing short of remarkable. Unlike some teen weepies, this movie doesn’t soft focus cancer – there is pain, exhaustion, weakness, and bloody vomit. Daryn is even shown scrubbing out bedpans. If you’re struggling to get your teenagers to unload the dishwasher, you might be tempted to stick them in front of the movie so they can see what real work looks like.
Before you send your teens off to watch this tender story of teenage devotion, you will want to consider the film’s negative content. There’s a fair bit of swearing, off-screen marijuana use, and some strongly implied sexual activity. There are also scenes where criminal behavior is glamorized: when Daryn shoplifts food from a gas station, Isabelle cheers him on and she’s impressed when he breaks into an empty motel room so they will have a free room for the night.
One of the most worrying parts of the movie is the relationship between Daryn and his father, Xavier (Cuba Gooding Jr). Before he meets Isabelle, Daryn has obediently trod the path laid out by his father but as his goals and priorities shift, conflict heats up at home. The script gives Daryn a binary choice: obey dad or rebel. This is not a message that benefits teens and the movie would do its audiences a favor if it demonstrated less explosive ways of handling conflict.
This flawed father/son relationship stands in stark contrast to the romance that underpins the film. Teen films usually focus on sexual attraction and it’s a relief to see a film where love is more than hormones; where it is about fidelity, compassion, forgiveness, selflessness, and putting another’s needs ahead of your own. Despite the bumps along the way and in the face of a terrifying diagnosis, these young people learn what it means to stay together “in sickness and in health”.Directed by Mitja Okorn. Starring Jaden Smith, Cuba Gooding Jr., Nia Long, Cara Delevingne. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release November 27, 2020. Updated February 5, 2021
Watch the trailer for Life in a Year
Life in a Year
Rating & Content Info
Why is Life in a Year rated PG-13? Life in a Year is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements, sexual material, language and drug content
Violence: A character reminisces about using a broom to swat rats near a baby’s cradle. An angry character throws a glass on the floor. An angry person throws a bulletin board on the floor. A man raises his arm to strike a minor. A main character drives recklessly. A character distracts another while he’s driving. A car crashes. A character passes out on a couple of occasions. A man wielding a baseball bat chases a minor. Food is thrown at someone’s head. A character vomits blood. An upset character tosses over a trolley containing files.
Sexual Content: A character talks about needing to lose his virginity. A character talks about “humping a pumpkin”. Someone jokes about “making babies”. A secondary character is a drag queen and drag queens are seen on a social occasion. A young man and woman kiss on several occasions. A teenage girl is briefly seen in lingerie. A young man and woman kiss passionately; she removes his shirt and intercourse is implied. A teenage girl wears a partially see-through dress: there is a side view of her breast and hip. A young woman is shown in the bathtub; only her back and shoulders are visible.
Profanity: There are approximately 50 profanities in the film including 27 scatological curses and 12 terms of deity. The movie also features a variety of crude anatomical terms and minor profanities. There is a single sexual expletive. A racial slur is heard a few times in song lyrics.
Alcohol / Drug Use: It is implied that a main character has used marijuana; he vomits.
Page last updated February 5, 2021
Life in a Year Parents' Guide
For more information about ovarian cancer, see these links.
Mayo Clinic: Ovarian cancer
Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance
Daryn and his father struggle to communicate. Have you ever had a hard time sharing how you really feel with family members? What strategies can you use to improve those communication skills?
Teens Health: Talking to Your Parents – or Other Adults
Reach Out: 5 ways to get your parents to really listen to you
Relate: How to talk to your teenager
The most recent home video release of Life in a Year movie is November 27, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Cancer movies are their own sub-genre in the weepy category. Characters with cancer star in A Walk to Remember and The Fault in our Stars.
Clouds tells the real life story of a young man who battles cancer and writes a chart-topping song in his senior year.
For a more lighthearted look at defining your own happiness, Godmothered shows a fairy godmother learning that everyone sees “happily ever after” differently.