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JUNIPER

"Postmodern Drama with a Pinch of Redemption"

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What You Need To Know:

JUNIPER is a drama from New Zealand. It tells the bittersweet story of an unlikely relationship between Sam, a suicidal 17-year-old, and his grandmother, Ruth. Sam’s father reluctantly takes in Ruth, an elderly alcoholic whose self-destructive nature matches Sam’s. Ironically, Ruth may be the key to Sam’s reclamation. A renowned, world-traveling journalist, Ruth comes to see there’s more of her in her grandson than she thought. They get to know each other over drinks and philosophical conversations about life and death. Could it be that this disturbed, unhappy teenager can help his difficult, world-weary grandmother face mortality as she helps him embrace life?

The New Zealand cinematography in JUNIPER is breathtaking. The writing, impressionistic storytelling, and compact running time make JUNIPER powerful in ways other similar movies are not. JUNIPER has some positive Christian, redemptive content and references. It concludes life is beautiful and worth living. Ultimate meaning in God and Jesus, however, still seems out of reach for the characters. JUNIPER has strong foul language, scenes of drunkenness and contemplation of suicide, and brief lewd content. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.

Content:

(PaPa, CC, B, HH, LL, VV, S, N, AA, MM):

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong mixed pagan worldview about a suicidal young man and his alcoholic grandmother has some overt and not-so-overt Christian, redemptive content and references and concludes life is beautiful and worth living but it doesn’t go far enough in that ultimate meaning in God and Jesus still seems out of reach for the two lead characters, and the movie has some postmodern, nihilistic attitudes (for example, grandmother says people can’t “have a decent conversation unless [they] get drunk,” and though grandmother accepts absolution and communion before death, she does so at the urging of a Christian friend and seems rather put out by it all

Foul Language:
20 obscenities (including 11 “f” words and one Jesus profanity

Violence:
A 17-year-old boy contemplates suicide several times, teenager secures a hangman’s noose to a tree and languidly sits and watches it swing, teenager writes suicide notes and puts his head in the noose at one point, plus some rough hits and tackles in a game of rugby, one boy tackles another boy and punches him repeatedly before being pulled off him by others, and a woman throws a glass at a teenage boy and hits him in the face

Sex:
Self-abuse implied when a 17-year-old boy looks at a magazine (no pages shown) before being interrupted, plus an elderly woman tells her teenage grandson to seduce a young girl and “get laid”

Nudity:
Teenage boy lies shirtless on the floor of his bedroom

Alcohol Use:
An elderly woman drinks heavily most of the time, teenagers drink and smoke, an elderly woman helps a 17-year-old teenager get drunk, saying this is necessary if they are to “have a decent conversation,” much drinking of gin and other alcoholic beverages throughout, and almost everyone drinks alcohol at some point

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Teenagers smoke at a party, an elderly woman smokes a marijuana cigarette at a party, a man smokes a cigarette in his home, and almost everyone smokes something at some point;

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Strong miscellaneous immorality includes a father and his 17-year-old son are initially hateful of the father’s elderly mother and are clear they are only taking her in because of the money she brings the family and an elderly woman routinely gives bad advice to a teenager (encouraging him to get drunk, to defy his father’s instructions and orders, etc.).

More Detail:

JUNIPER is a New Zealand drama that tells the bittersweet story of an unlikely relationship which blooms between a suicidal 17-year-old and his grandmother after the man’s father reluctantly takes in his mother, whose self-destructive nature matches that of her grandson’s, but who may ironically come to be the key to the teenager’s reclamation. JUNIPER has some powerful, intense, uplifting moments, with some positive Christian, redemptive content that concludes life is beautiful and worth living, but ultimate meaning in God and Jesus still seems out of reach for the characters, and the movie has strong foul language, scenes of drunkenness, references to suicide, and brief lewd content deserving extreme caution.

Ruth is a diehard alcoholic who drinks to dangerous excess. A renowned journalist and world traveler, Ruth comes to see that there’s more of her in her 17-year-old grandson, Sam, than she had thought. The two get to know each other over drinks and over deep philosophical conversations about the meaning of life and death. The question of mortality becomes preeminent for both people. Could it be that a disturbed, unhappy teenager can help a world-weary, difficult elderly woman face death as she helps him to embrace life?

The New Zealand cinematography in JUNIPER is breathtaking and makes an excellent backdrop to the tale being told. The shots of the red sunrise are particularly beautiful and meaning-laden. The concision of the writing, impressionistic storytelling, and running time of the movie make it powerful in a way other similar movies are not. Its strength is that it communicates the agony and ecstasy of people in pain and seeking meaning with power and intensity. The movie’s brevity can be seen as a symbol of the brevity of life and that the movie does come to see that life is beautiful, though ultimate meaning remains out of reach.

The movie’s worldview is one of postmodern nihilism with a theme of biblical morality running through it. The redemptive theme of Ruth’s saving the life of her grandson by investing in him where no one else has is uplifting and keeps the movie from being simply a meditation on death. However, this redemptive theme is not enough in itself to outweigh the movie’s strong nihilistic overtures. For example, Ruth’s “no games,” no pretenses approach to life would seem to be the opposite of the postmodern persuasion, except that it becomes clear that she herself is playing games in a way she simply cannot admit to herself. Thus, her assumption that people can’t “have a decent conversation unless [they] get drunk” is illustrative of the escapist view of “getting through life,” which is characteristic of postmodern nihilism. Also, though the two leads appear to overcome this nihilism in the end through their relationship, it remains unclear what the worldview takeaways are, for both the movie’s characters and the viewer. Ruth’s actions in correctly defining war to her teenage grandson and engaging him and his directionless friends in honest, helpful activity are noble, but, in the final analysis, she, her son, her grandson, and her grandson’s friends are not totally transformed by these acts. It’s also unclear whether Ruth herself comes to any sort of meaningful change of heart by being given the gift of not having to die alone, or that her efforts to keep her grandson from committing suicide is any proof of a lasting redemption, much less salvation. The positive content in JUNIPER keeps this family drama from being a mere tragedy, but they don’t necessarily equal a worldview paradigm shift. For example, though Ruth does accept absolution and communion before death, she does so at the urging of a Christian friend and seems rather put out by it all.

Finally, JUNIPER also contains 11 “f” words, one strong profanity, drunkenness, contemplation of suicide, and brief lewd content. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.

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Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.


4000+ Faith Based Articles and Movie Reviews – Will you Support Us?

Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.

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