by Will Wade, published on May 9, 2008|
common sense media says
Teen runaway's harrowing journey isn't for kids.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this disturbing film follows a teenager who runs away from bullying classmates, a dysfunctional homelife, and a tragic accident. The 15-year-old Tracey ends up in the seedy underworld of a big city, populated by pimps, prostitutes, and thugs, who see her as an easy mark. The film opens with Tracey nearly naked, wrapped in a shower curtain in the back of a bus, and a series of flashbacks gradually reveals how she arrived in this difficult situation. The film uses a split-screen technique throughout, presenting multiple perspectives of each scene simultaneously. It's an interesting gimmick, but can be distracting. There are several moments of intense violence, including an attempted rape, mature sexual themes, drinking, smoking, and plenty of cursing. Young fans of Ellen Page expecting a fun follow-up to her hit film Juno should look elsewhere.
Positive messages: Tracey is bullied at school, where other kids call her "It," and comment often on the size of her breasts. Her home life is dysfunctional, with a violent father and an emotionally absent mother. Tracey steals money from her mother's purse and runs away in search of her missing younger brother, ending up in a world of cheap bars, pimps, prostitutes, thugs, and assorted other low-lifes, where the vulnerable 15-year-old girl is likely to be victimized.
Violence: A few scenes of intense violence that could be disturbing to kids. A thug beats another man senseless and then tries to rape the teenage Tracey; nearly naked, she fights back with the jagged edge of an open can, leaving the man bleeding profusely as she flees in her underwear. Tracey trashes a phone booth after an unpleasant call. Her father, in a moment of anger, takes off his belt in a practiced manner, making it obvious that he regularly uses it to discipline his children.
Sex: In a pivotal scene, Tracey has sex in a car with a boy who is clearly using her. It's not romantic and there's no nudity. There is also a harrowing near-rape, and a seedy bar scene featuring an aging, nearly nude stripper.
Language: Extremely coarse. "F--k" is used throughout the film, as are a choice variety of other epithets, including "p---y," "s--t," "c--t," and plenty of other words and gestures.
Consumerism: Some scenes show store signs.
Drinking, drugs, & smoking: Some characters smoke, including teens and Tracey's mom, who smokes constantly. A few scenes take place in bars, where there is plenty of drinking
Is it any good?
The Tracey Fragments can be tough to watch for two reasons. First, it uses a split-screen format, showing multiple perspectives of every scene. It's an interesting gimmick, but can also be distracting, forcing the viewer to focus on two or more images when the mesmerizing Page demands complete attention as a disturbed teen who is coming apart.
Second, Tracey is a girl with no refuge -- not at school, where she is bullied and belittled, nor at home where her violent father and emotionally absent mother create an environment of rules and discipline, but little love. Tracey is unraveling, slowly at first, but after a series of horrific encounters it becomes clear that her hold on reality is tenuous, and slipping. It's fantastic performance, but painful at times to see, and Page is not matched by either the supporting cast, or the profanity-laden script, which substitutes expletives for nuance. And though Tracey's breakdown is compelling, there is little else to see; scenes with her psychiatrist, for example, which could have been fascinating, devolve into screaming and swearing. When we finally learn what has pushed her over the edge, it feels like just one more terrible event in the sad life of a young girl who doesn't deserve so much woe.
Rating: 3 out of 5