Master parents guide

Master Parent Guide

This film is particularly frightening because the horror that underpins it is so very real.

Overall C

Amazon: Two Black women at a prestigious university learn that their university is haunted by racism - and by something else.

Release date March 18, 2022

Violence B
Sexual Content A-
Profanity D
Substance Use D

Why is Master rated R? The MPAA rated Master R for language and some drug use

Run Time: 91 minutes

Parent Movie Review

At Ancaster, a predominantly white college, freshman Jasmine (Zoe Renee) is struggling to fit in as the only Black student in her cohort while also adjusting to the rigors of college level schoolwork. At the same time, tenured professor Gail Bishop (Regina Hall) has just been named the master of Belleville Hall, a very old historical house on campus. While both women struggle with casual and pointed racism, there also seems to be something more sinister haunting the halls of the school.

Master is an ambitious and thought-provoking thriller/social commentary with a lot to say. And for the most part, it succeeds. Unfortunately, first time director Mariam Diallo’s inexperience stops the movie from reaching the heights that it had the potential to hit. There are some plot points that go nowhere, and some odd editing choices that disrupt the tension and cause some pacing issues. I think that Diallo was aiming for ambiguity in the story, which I can appreciate, but we end up with scenes that serve no purpose, or at the very least serve as metaphors that don’t go anywhere.

Luckily for audiences, the actors are all fantastic, which makes the experience worthwhile. But the truly outstanding aspect of this film is in the overall message, or perhaps allegory. Racism and historical wrongs are the ghosts that haunt the school and, by extension, America. The everyday, casual racism that both Jasmine and Gail face is not over the top; it’s realistic because of its subtlety and relentlessness. It is everyday bias that haunts the school: the institutional discrimination, the culture of privilege, and the lack of meaningful action. Gail is tokenized as an example of how “diverse” the school is and how the institution is moving in the right direction, but the administration fails to do anything when a burning cross is found on the quad or when someone hangs a noose on Jasmine’s door. The real horror isn’t ghosts, it’s racism.

The effectiveness of the allegory makes this a worthwhile watch for people who want to engage in the subject matter. However, the amount of swearing and underage substance use makes this a poor choice for teens. With a little polishing, Master could have been phenomenal. The masterful allegory and messaging are notable, though it is lacking in some of the more cinematic qualities that could make it great.

Directed by Mariama Diallo. Starring Regina Hall, Zoe Renee, Julia Nightingale. Running time: 91 minutes. Theatrical release March 18, 2022. Updated

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Rating & Content Info

Why is Master rated R? Master is rated R by the MPAA for language and some drug use

Violence: There is a discussion of suicide. A woman dreams that someone has put a noose around her neck. A woman commits suicide, although the act is not shown, her body is briefly seen afterwards.
Sexual Content: A couple kiss. A girl implies that she has been raped, though it is very subtle and unclear.
Profanity: There are seven sexual expletives, as well as fourteen mild and moderate expletives and twelve terms of deity. A racial slur is used a handful of times. 
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults are seen drinking socially. College students (implied that some are under 21) drink and smoke weed in multiple scenes.

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Master Parents' Guide

What are some of the everyday racist acts and words that Jasmine and Gail face? Do the people saying and doing those things mean to be racist, or are they acting on unconscious bias? What are some ways that we can examine our own biases and work to overcome them?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Other horror films that tackle racism include Get Out, Us, His House, Black Box, Antebellum and Candyman.