Robin Williams plays Chris Nielson, a doctor who arrives in heaven after he is killed by a car as he attempts to help the victims of an accident. His wife, Annie (Anabella Sciorra), already devastated by the loss of their two children four years earlier, begins to fall apart, and commits suicide. As Chris explores heaven, he realizes that it cannot be heaven for him without her. But, as a suicide, she is consigned to hell. With the help of a guide, he embarks on an Orpheus-like journey.
The lush visual beauty of this movie and the interesting issues it raises make it worthwhile for thoughtful teens who are drawn to questions about death and meaning and making profound connections. Those who have endured their own real losses may find it superficial, and some be disturbed to find the concepts of heaven and hell inconsistent with their own notions. They are not even consistent within their own assumptions. But some teens will appreciate the chance to use this movie to talk about what their heaven would look like (the film’s web site gives them a chance to create a version online and post it) and how the characters’ struggle makes them think differently about their relationships and priorities. They will be particularly interested in Chris’ relationships with his children, and how he thinks about what he should have done differently after their death. Teens may also like to learn about the myth of Orpheus, to see the similarities and differences.
Parents should know that there is brief strong language and disturbing imagery.