Dan (Steve Carell) is a widower, the father of three daughters and author of a regular parenting advice column for a local newspaper. While giving out parenting advice, Dan struggles in his dealings with his own children. His eldest daughter Jane wants to practise her driving. His petulant middle daughter Carla has a new boyfriend. His youngest daughter Lily is growing up fast.
In an atmosphere of family discord, Dan and the girls set off to Rhode Island for the annual family get-together organised by his parents (John Mahoney and Dianne Wiest). While running errands for the family, Dan meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) in the local bookshop. They have an immediate connection and, on returning to the family house, Dan shares his good news with his brothers Clay and Mitch and sister Amy. Unfortunately, Marie also happens to be Mitch’s new girlfriend, who is introduced to the family during the holiday.
For the remainder of the holiday weekend, Dan is in agony as he becomes increasingly infatuated with Marie. His parents notice his strange behaviour and thinking he’s lonely, arrange a blind date for him. Mitch suggests a double date, and the events of the evening give Dan hope that Marie also likes him. As they begin to lose control of how they feel about each other and Dan’s problems with his daughters increase, the situation escalates into a very public family crisis.
Family relationships; grief and loss following the death of a wife and mother
In one scene Dan is kissing Marie, and Mitch punches him in the face, causing him to fall down. Dan is later seen with a cut lip and black eye.
Content that may disturb children
- Dan and his daughters talk about how they miss their mother even after the passage of four years since her death. They are not visibly distressed during these discussions.
- While trying to escape out of Marie’s bathroom window without anyone knowing, Dan loses his balance and falls off the roof. He lands in bushes, uninjured.
Some children in this age group may also be disturbed by the fact that the children have lost their mother.
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.
There are some sexual references in this movie. For example:
- Dan is shown sorting out laundry early in the movie. He finds a pair of frilly G-string knickers, which belongs to his daughter Cara.
- Dan and Cara have an argument when Cara’s boyfriend Marty turns up at the family holiday. Cara tries to reassure her father that he doesn’t have to worry about the ‘sex thing’, because in fact it is Marty who ‘wants to wait’.
- Dan goes on a blind date, and the following morning he is briefly grilled by his brothers about how it went. He does not discuss the details with them.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There is some use of substances in this movie. For example:
- During dinner with the family, the adults drink wine. No one is intoxicated.
- During the double date, the couples go to a bar. They have alcoholic drinks, but no-one is intoxicated.
Nudity and sexual activity
There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie. For example:
- Dan watches as Marie and Mitch stretch after the family exercise session. The stretch session is quite intimate with close contact.
- Dan and Marie are having a discussion about their predicament in her bathroom when Dan’s daughter Jane asks Marie whether she can come in to get some advice. Dan hides in the shower, and after letting Jane in, Marie pretends she is going to have shower and turns the tap on. Jane tells Marie to have her shower and she will close her eyes. Dan briefly sees Marie’s naked back reflected in the mirror as she undresses, and then she gets into the shower. She is shown from her shoulders up. Dan covers his eyes and then escapes through the window.
- Brief kissing scenes between Cara and Marty, Marie and Mitch, and Marie and Dan.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Dan in Real Life is a romantic comedy that is likely to be enjoyed by adolescents and adults. Young children may not be interested due to the wordy dialogue, gentle pace and focus on family relationships.
You might like to talk about some of the values presented in this movie, such as the:
- importance of communication, understanding and forgiveness in family relationships
- sense of protection and belonging that family can provide.
You could also talk about how your own family deals with important issues such as lying, disobedience, disrespect, loss and grieving.