Netflix Review – Freaks (2018): Parenting in a Broken World

Emile Hirsch and Bruce Dern star in a sci-fi dystopian story of what parents will do for their children.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Chloe Lewis (Lexy Kolker) is a seven-year-old girl who lives alone with her father (Emile Hirsch) in a broken down house. Her father has a set of very strict rules that he enforces, including that she can’t leave the house, can’t talk to people, can’t react to strange accusations, and has to practice having a fake identity. One day, she hears an ice cream truck outside and uses her voice to force a local girl to buy her ice cream. Her father gets angry at her for violating the rules. Later, her father comes back from outside with a bullet wound. Chloe uses this opportunity to leave and meet with the ice cream man (Bruce Dern). He tells Chloe he’s been waiting for her, and soon gets her embroiled in a plot to rescue her mother (Amanda Crew) from a shadowy government agency and its investigator Agent Ray (Grace Park). 

Freaks - 1Chloe
It’s a hard-knock life for her.


This is kind of a dystopian X-Men movie, taking place in a future where people with superhuman powers are being hunted by the government and kept in prison camps or used as weapons by the government. While that becomes obvious pretty early on in the film, we never see a grand explanation or anything like that, because we’re just seeing this society through the eyes of one family. We aren’t privy to the inner workings of the government or anything about the origins of the “Freaks,” because that’s not what the family knows or talks about, and there wasn’t a way to do it organically. It adds a layer of realism to an entirely unbelievable story, which helps the viewer bond with the characters, and that’s what the core of this film is: bonds.

Freaks - 2Hirsch
The name’s bonds. Emotional bonds.

While this movie takes place in a dystopian future filled with mutants, it’s not an action or adventure movie like most of those. Instead, it’s mostly a slow, sincere film about a family trying to deal with a bad situation. Emile Hirsch’s performance as a father who is going to extreme lengths to try and keep his daughter safe from a very real threat is amazing. Bruce Dern’s character, trying to avenge a lost loved one, is equally powerful. The pair of them represent opposing viewpoints about how to handle the situation involving “Freaks.” It resembles the positions held by Charles Xavier and Magneto in the X-Men series or their real-life inspirations Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Both are presented as reasonable positions to hold, but at the end of the day they both wouldn’t have to hold them if the government would stop trying to oppress its own citizens.

Freaks - 3Carrying

I’d also like to say that Lexy Kolker’s performance in this movie is amazing. Despite the fact that she is only 9 years old when she was filming the movie, her portrayal of an isolated and nearly-tortured child is spot-on. She shows a level of dedicated affection to Emile Hirsch’s character that seems genuine, as does her frustration at his strict rules. She also perfectly encapsulates the innocence of a child of 7, seeming to not be able to comprehend the situation she’s in fully. 

Freaks - 4Chloe
Also, she’s a badass for someone who just got out of pull-ups.

The special effects in the movie are used sparingly, but they’re used well. The powers in the movie are used creatively, showing that the people using them can maximize abilities beyond what most people would consider. 

Overall, I really recommend this film to almost anyone. It was a solid film and it had some genuinely powerful emotional moments in it. It’s on Netflix, so give it a try.

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