Story

Divergent is a science fiction action movie set in a dystopian Chicago in the future. The government has divided society into five factions based on personality testing – Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (truthful), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave).

The movie follows the story of Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), a girl with a family heritage from Abnegation. Personality testing reveals that Beatrice doesn’t fall into any of the five categories – she is a ‘Divergent’. She’s told that she’ll be hunted and killed if anyone discovers this. At the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice elects to go against her family heritage and be a part of the Dauntless faction.

Changing her name to ‘Tris’, she struggles initially, but soon becomes one of the most fearless members of the faction. She quickly gains the respect of her instructor, Tobias (Theo James), and the two later develop a more intimate relationship. During the training, initiates are put through a range of physical and psychological tests. When the psychological testing reveals that Tris is unlike the other initiates, Tobias encourages her to practice so that she can conceal her powers as a Divergent.

But the Erudites drug the Dauntless soldiers, and only Tobias and Tris remain unaffected. This means they must abandon the secrecy that has protected their true personalities and stand against a powerful faction and its leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet).

Themes

Family loyalty versus patriotic duty; betrayal and trust; identity; totalitarian states

Violence

Divergent has considerable violence, including gun fights and hand-to-hand fighting with knives. For example:

  • The initiates often fight each other when they’re training. They have weapons that simulate the sensation of being shot with a gun, and must shoot each other.
  • Tris is grabbed by three masked men when she returns to Dauntless one night. They hold her while she struggles, and try to throw her off the side of a cliff. Tobias saves her.
  • One of the other initiates kills himself because he feels guilty about trying to kill Tris to boost his own position on the Dauntless leader board. His body is pulled up after he has hung himself.
  • When Dauntless soldiers (under the influence of mind control) attack Abnegation, they shoot and kill many Abnegation citizens. There are dead bodies covered in blood on the floor.
  • Tris is shot in the final battle with Dauntless soldiers. Her mother and father are also both shot and killed.
  • Tris is forced to kill one of the initiates she trained with, because he’s under the influence of mind control and is trying to shoot her.
  • When Tris is facing her fears within the simulations, Tobias aggressively tries to have sex with her. He pushes her down on the bed, but she kicks him in the groin and punches him in the face to throw him off.
  • Tris throws a knife through Jeanine’s hand, pinning her to a board.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Divergent has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight years.

For example, Tris loses both of her parents during the final battle – her mother and father are both shot trying to save and protect her. When her mother dies, Tris is very distressed and breaks down. By the time her father dies, she is more like a soldier and simply continues with her mission. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by the scenes involving the death of Tris’ parents. In addition, they might be disturbed by the implication that, as a child, Tobias was physically abused by his father. During Tobias’ induced nightmares, his father stands before him holding a belt and talking about it being in Tobias’ best interests. 

Over 13

Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above. 

Sexual references

None of concern 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Divergent shows some use of substances. For example:

  • As part of their psychological testing, initiates are injected with a serum that induces nightmares. They then hallucinate their worst fears.
  • All members of Dauntless are injected with a serum that turns them into ‘mindless drones’. They are then used as weapons against the other factions.  

Nudity and sexual activity

Divergent has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • After joining Dauntless, Tris must get changed in a room with both men and women – she takes off her shirt and is seen in her bra and pants.
  • Tobias removes his shirt to show Tris his tattoo.
  • When Tris is facing her fears within the simulations, Tobias aggressively tries to have sex with her. He pushes her down on the bed, but she kicks him in the groin and punches him in the face to throw him off.
  • Characters kiss each other passionately. 

Product placement

None of concern 

Coarse language

Divergent has some coarse language. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Divergent is a science fiction action fantasy movie. It is the first in a series of screen adaptations of Veronica Roth’s best-selling dystopian trilogy, which many teenagers and some younger children might have read.

The movie features frequent violence, is tense and scary, and has themes that younger children might find difficult to understand.

Divergent is about identity, and how people build their own identities against the influences of family, relationships and social responsibilities. The movie begins with Tris having very little idea of who she is and what she can do. The trials she goes through during her Dauntless training help her discover that she is far braver and stronger than she imagined. The main message is that it is possible to achieve anything with enough determination and strength of character.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your older children include the following:

  • Respect your family and stand by them, even when you and they make different choices.
  • Push yourself to be more than you – and others – think you can be.
  • Take risks so that you can develop personally and live a full life without fear.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about:

  • totalitarian states, and why it’s not good to have power centralised in the hands of individuals who might abuse it
  • the treatment of minority groups in a society that fears them
  • individual compliance versus independence.