Australian Council on Children and the Media

Just Like Heaven

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Short takes

Not recommended under 13, PG to 15

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Just Like Heaven
  • a review of Just Like Heaven completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 December 2005.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Due to its theme, sexual references and coarse language this film is not recommended for children under the age of thirteen.
Children aged 13-15 Parental guidance is recommended for children aged thirteen to fifteen.
Children over the age of 15 Children over the age of fifteen could see this film with or without parental guidance.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Just Like Heaven
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild sexual references, Mild theme, Mild coarse language
Length 95 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Elizabeth Masterson (Reece Witherspoon) is a workaholic who has completely dedicated her life to being a doctor and helping people. Spending long shifts in the hospital she leaves little time for anything else, until one day tragedy strikes. David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo), a former landscape designer, is still mourning the loss of his wife when he sub-lets a beautiful San Francisco apartment. In his drunken depression he slowly begins to trash the apartment, thereby summoning the spirit of Elizabeth, who lived there before him, refuses to believe that she is dead and so insists that he leave her apartment. David refuses to leave and instead makes various attempts to heave her spirit “exorcised”. When all efforts fail, a new possibility is presented to them. Working together they try to unravel the mystery of her identity and in the process slowly begin to fall in love.

When her identity is discovered a new problem arises, as her life-support is due to be switched off and the only tie keeping her from ‘crossing over’ is severed. In desperation David hatches a last-minute plan to buy some time to save her life. Unfortunately things begin to go awry and the outcome that was expected and hoped for was not to be, at least not initially. It takes a final selfless act to bring all the pieces together and in the process save not one life, but two.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

This film contains a fair amount of violence:

  • A patient is grabbed and detained after accosting someone and a sedative is injected into his behind.
  • A truck hits Elizabeth’s car.
  • Elizabeth attempts to attack David on a number of occasions, by hitting him in and around the head.
  • Elizabeth attempts to shove David and she herself falls through a window.
  • Elizabeth’s sister threatens David with a large butcher knife.
  • David punches a doctor in the face.
  • Hospital security guards chase David and his friend and pin them down.

 

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There are a number of scenes in this film that could potentially disturb younger children.

  • Elizabeth, and occasionally David, vanish and then reappear a moment later, or disappear entirely. This happens arbitrarily without explanation or warning and could be confusing for many young children.
  • Elizabeth’s sister tries to protect her children from what she thinks is a madman and threatens repeatedly to “chop” David with a butcher knife.
  • Elizabeth’s nieces say good-bye to her as she lays comatose in a hospital bed. This could distress and sadden many young viewers.

 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be scared or disturbed by the scenes described above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children over the age of eight are unlikely to be frightened by anything in this film.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children over the age of thirteen are unlikely to be frightened by anything in this film.

Sexual references

The film contains several sexual references including:

  • A patient in the hospital keeps seductively licking walls and attempts to lick people.
  • When asked a general question a man implies that he has had an affair with another woman and David assumes that the other woman was Elizabeth.
  • David is asked to go in and “fix” something in a neighbour’s apartment. She is wearing tight workout pants and a push-up bra and makes it clear what she wants. When David says he has dinner plans, she tells him “she’s got dessert.”
  • The same neighbour later reveals a tattoo on her behind, which reads “All aboard” in three languages.

 

Nudity and sexual activity

There are some instances of partial nudity and implied sexual activity:

  • An elderly gentleman in the hospital gives a full view of his naked backside, due to a gown that won’t close.
  • The camera zooms in and stays focussed on the chest of David’s neighbour. She is wearing a skimpy, tight top. Later it zooms in on her rear as she is leaving the room. She is wearing very tight, low-cut jeans and a good part of her G-string is visible.
  • The same neighbour later announces that she is locked out of her apartment and proceeds to make herself comfortable in David’s. She goes into the bedroom telling him she wants to ‘show him something’ and then proceeds to toss out her articles of clothing, one at a time. When he doesn’t enter the bedroom, she appears in the hall wearing nothing but a towel, which she then lets drop to the floor.

 

Use of substances

There is frequent use of alcohol in the movie, and references to it, including:

  • David admits to being drunk on more than one occasion, often has beer after beer and frequents a local bar.
  • alcohol is defended by a friend of David’s as being instrumental in the social structure of society as a means to make men brave and women loose.
  • there is a fight over a glass of scotch at a bar.
  • while attempting to save someone’s life, David uses Vodka to cleanse the skin, the spout to open the wound and takes a large drink himself.
  • After failing a test, Elizabeth and her sister went out together to have ‘lots and lots of margueritas’.

 

Coarse language

The film contains a moderate amount of coarse language, including:

  • sluts
  • assholes
  • Hell
  • shit

 

In a nutshell

The movie’s main message is that some things are simply meant to be. What may, at first, appear to be a series of random events may upon closer inspection be very much connected, if you only take the time to look and believe.

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