20th Century Women

Critics Consensus

20th Century Women offers Annette Bening a too-rare opportunity to shine in a leading role -- and marks another assured step forward for writer-director Mike Mills.

88%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 223

74%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,974

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Movie Info

In 1979 Santa Barbara, Calif., Dorothea Fields is a determined single mother in her mid-50s who is raising her adolescent son, Jamie, at a moment brimming with cultural change and rebellion. Dorothea enlists the help of two younger women -- Abbie, a free-spirited punk artist living as a boarder in the Fields' home and Julie, a savvy and provocative teenage neighbor -- to help with Jamie's upbringing.

Cast & Crew

Alison Elliott
Julie's Mother
Thea Gill
Abbie's Mother
Olivia Hone
Julie's Sister
Mike Mills
Screenwriter
Chelsea Barnard
Executive Producer
Sean Porter
Cinematographer
Leslie Jones
Film Editor
Roger Neill
Original Music
Chris Jones
Production Design
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News & Interviews for 20th Century Women

Critic Reviews for 20th Century Women

All Critics (223) | Top Critics (62) | Fresh (196) | Rotten (27)

  • Mills is clearly fond of all these characters, and is happy to dwell on their moments of happiness and sadness, all of which provide knowledge and worldly wisdom to the teenage boy whose life they will so profoundly affect.

    June 2, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • It's a nice film with some great moments but Mills' touch is too tentative to make all that talk buzz and hum as resonantly as it should.

    May 31, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • We finally have a good film that explores what it looks like to raise a male feminist, particularly during this crucial era. More importantly, we finally have a film that actually cares to do so (shout out to writer/director Mike Mills).

    March 22, 2017 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • There are louder films jostling for attention out there. This one is the secret treasure of the season, though - crafted with tender precision, and built to last.

    February 12, 2017 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • There's a certain arch self-awareness in the screenwriting that won't appeal to everyone, but I loved the film for its scrapbook structure, its warmth and candour.

    February 12, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Too often, one yearns for the simple organising principles of three-act structure and boring linear storytelling.

    February 10, 2017 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for 20th Century Women

  • Apr 30, 2020
    Delicate, endearing, and enchanting, you feel hugged by the film's warmth and lived in atmosphere.
    Bradley J Super Reviewer
  • Jun 19, 2017
    It begins dull and uninteresting but later becomes an adorable and complex film drenched in nostalgia, with a great soundtrack, an Oscar-deserving award by Annette Bening and an impressive cinematography that makes it look like it was really made in the late 1970s.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 14, 2017
    Films like this seem to be inevitable each year. A tone that is off-putting, while still telling a compelling story, making the overall film solid, but underwhelming. In my opinion, films like last year's Carol or 2014's Foxcatcher came to mind when I was watching 20th Century Women. Almost all of the subject matter was interesting to me and everyone was giving great performances, but the very slow pace and dull tone really took away from the impact. Nominated for best screenplay at the upcoming Oscars, I can see why people are raving about certain aspects of this film. That being said, I found myself bored throughout the majority of this well-made film. I feel conflicted about this film, but nevertheless, let's dive in. From cancer to the loss of people close to you, this film explores many different aspects of the hardships of life. Focussing mostly on three women (all different ages) as they explore their lives in ways that most people do every day, at its core, 20th Century Women is really just about life and what comes with it. Taking place in only a few locations throughout the majority of the picture, it really is all about the characters at hand, which I found interesting, but also utterly boring. When a film like this is made, I always hope that every single character moves me in different ways, but everyone seemed so miserable most of the time that it just reflected in my reaction to the film as a whole. The biggest highlight of this film was watching the character of Julie, played very well by Elle Fanning. Her character slowly transforms throughout the film and realizes that certain things are better left alone. This was a trend I noticed throughout the entire film to be honest. The younger characters seemed to have much more to work with her, while the adults all seemed dead inside. I liked watching Annette Bening in films like The Kids are All Right or American Beauty, but her performance here was very one-note in my opinion. Her expressions were either depressing to look at or happy for a instant. There were many times where I was hoping it would cut back to the younger characters quicker, because they were just simply the best portion of the film. While I must admit that the direction is pretty terrific for the most part, the tone did not click with me. At least it was able to keep itself consistent throughout the course of the film, but the drab look just made me bored. I seem to be using the word boring a lot, but when there are no exciting moments in a film that is all about self-discovery and hardships, there really isn't anything to get excited about when talking about 20th Century Women. Now, as I mentioned, the tone itself is well-done and kept very consistent, so I was very impressed by the fact that they decided to go with a very quite route for this story. The style and editing choices really make this the definition of an indie film and I am glad this film was acknowledged in some capacity. In the end, Mike Mills has written and directed a very compelling piece of filmmaking and I can't fault him for a second. I do however think that his script could have been translated to screen in a more vibrant and energetic way. 20th Century Women takes itself very, very seriously, leaving hardly any fun to be had. There are moments when I was hoping for lighter music to be playing or certain scenes to be trimmed down, but everything seems to be very dragged out. It's the odd case where the film itself is very good, but still has numerous minor issues that bothered me throughout. This is also a film with tremendous editing and there were times when that element alone was sucking me in. I am going to recommend this film to a mature audience, due to the fact that its themed have been well-realized and require your full attention. Overall, 20th Century Women is a solid film that could have been great.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Feb 02, 2017
    Time is fleeting. This is a phrase heard countless times throughout our youth and throughout our life as a reminder to cherish the days we're living in as they'll be gone before we realize it. What we never realize though, is just how fleeting such times are when we're actually in them. The young man at the center of 20th Century Women, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), was born in 1964 with the film opening in 1979. This makes Jamie a young fifteen as made even more apparent by his clear skin and boyish features that render him still a child in our minds rather than the adult he would have us believe he is becoming. My own father was born in 1964 and I can't say I've ever considered what the world looked like at the time of his most formative years. Hell, I don't know that I ever even realized it was the fall of 1980 when he turned sixteen-with only six years to go until he married my mother on the cusp of his twenty-second birthday. Sure, I've heard him tell stories of the things he did as a young boy with his older brother and neighborhood friends, but never did I take a minute to step back and look at the bigger picture; really consider the world they were living in at that time. With 20th Century Women writer/director Mike Mills (Beginners) explores these small, fleeting moments in time and reflects on what made what is presumed to be his mother, his mother. This isn't simply presented by the circumstances of her life, but by the circumstances of the time in which she was born. This is a fascinating way of perceiving things, but can also be rather dangerous considering the infinite possibilities one can imagine were they to consider who they or someone they know/love might have been were they born in a different time. This framing of lives through fleeting moments with the added perception of where each of the individuals chronicled came from and where they're going reveals a lot of truths, but mostly it works best by affirming what we don't always have enough time to acknowledge-that happiness comes most naturally when we're not actively trying to chase it. read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com
    Philip P Super Reviewer

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