Notice: All forms on this website are temporarily down for maintenance. You will not be able to complete a form to request information or a resource. We apologize for any inconvenience and will reactivate the forms as soon as possible.

What Rhymes With Reason

Content Caution

What Rhymes with Reason


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Paul Asay

Movie Review

It wasn’t Paris. Or Rome. Or Tokyo. It didn’t have the glamour of the Riviera or the adventure of the Australian outback. Sure, it had mystery—plenty of that. Jonathan wouldn’t say, exactly, where they’d go or what they’d do.

But Jonathan Brandt sold the trip as a life-changer.

“When my dad took me on this trip, it ignited me for adventure,” he tells his high school-age son, Jesse. “This is once in a lifetime … one last hurrah with your old man before you head off into the real world.”

But Jesse wasn’t ready to commit. He promised to talk with his father about the trip later—after Jonathan got back from another book conference or some such.

But Dad didn’t come back. Neither did Jesse’s mom. Their lives claimed by a car crash. There would be no trip of a lifetime, no one last hurrah.

Or so it seemed.

Then Jesse and his friends find a mysterious, symbol-covered compass locked away in his dad’s desk. And a map. A cryptic poem. Seems like Jonathan had wanted to go with Jesse on a full Hobbit-like quest, minus the dragons and dwarves and moonlight runes.

“We’re getting peak Goonies vibe, right?” says Billy, Jesse’s social media-obsessed pal.

The quest will apparently take them to a mysterious Oklahoma site called Zion’s Point, just in time for a meteor shower. Jesse—grieving the loss of his parents and knowing how important the trip was to his father—decides he’s going to make the journey. “I’m watching that shower, no matter what,” he says.

But he’ll have company. Billy’s coming, toting along his thousands of followers for good measure. The Jones siblings, volatile Zack and talented Reena, agree to come, too. And even though the perfectionist planner Eli thinks it’s a bad idea to go before school’s out, he reluctantly agrees to join his friends. After all, someone’s going to have to keep the crew in line, right?

For Jesse’s friends, the quest to find Zion’s Point feels like a grand adventure. But for Jesse, it’s more than that: It’s a way to connect with his father, a way to grieve, a way to process all the hurt and anger and despair inside.

And Jesse hopes that, once he reaches the end, he’ll find a reason to live again.

Positive Elements

Jesse has plenty of reasons to live, of course. But it’s hard for him to see them in the moment. Grief can pack a wallop, and he and his sister, Savannah, are in the midst of soul-crushing grief. And their shared journey forms the backbone of What Rhymes With Reason—their battle against despair, anxiety and mental illness. Savannah (who joins the quest a bit later in the movie) struggles with anxiety. And she’s been fighting that battle since well before her parents passed. For Jesse, though, depression is something new and altogether unwelcome. It threatens to consume him.

While neither anxiety nor depression are “positives,” to be sure, we see how Jesse and Savannah’s friends do their best to help the grieving siblings through their trials. Indeed, the trip becomes a time of raw confession for almost everyone involved. Billy expresses his own insecurities and loneliness, despite having so many social media followers. Zack admits how hard he’s tried to distance himself from the influence of his violent father; but he worries he’s simply following in his footsteps. Everyone’s dealing with something it seems.

And as the film acknowledges that we all have struggles, it points to how important it is to talk about them and to allow others to help. These friends prove to be real friends—willing to come alongside and offer support, advice or even just a shoulder. And while the struggles that our main characters face with can’t be fully dealt with in a weekend trip (and certainly can’t be solved in a two-hour movie), we see that many have made progress in the end. Each comes away from the trip with a new sense of hope.

We don’t get a chance to see much of Jesse and Savannah’s mom and dad. But both are obviously loving, caring and involved parents.

Spiritual Elements

I wouldn’t call What Rhymes With Reason an in-your-face “Christian” film, exactly. Its faith content is understated and relatively organic.  But its writer and director, Kyle Roberts, is a Christian, and Christian elements are scattered throughout.

Perhaps that faith content is at its most poignant when the teens’ quest leads them to an old church, where they must play the famed hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” on a piano there. It’s a beautiful rendition, but the scene is made even more powerful when you know the backstory of the hymn: Hymnist Horatio Spafford wrote it after his own life was rocked by trauma and grief, including the death of his four daughters at sea. As Jesse and Savannah deal with their own grief, the hymn offers an Easter egg of sorts that reminds us that even in life’s most difficult moments, God is still with us.

Eli is the son of a prominent megachurch pastor, and he often offers well-intended but rejected messages of faith and hope. When he launches the expedition with a prayer, Billy says, “It’s the most cliché prayer I’ve ever heard, and I’m Catholic.” When he cautiously tells Jesse that God has a plan—even in the midst of this tragedy—Jesse shouts, “I don’t want His plan! I want my life back!”

Toward the end, Eli offers his own confession: Sometimes he feels as though his father is lying to him from the pulpit, suggesting that faith will help everything make sense. “I’ve been walking with God my entire life, and I still don’t know what I’m doing.” Someone speculates that God’s plan isn’t as generous as Eli says it is. Maybe “for every winner, there’s a loser, too.”

The terminus of their quest, Zion’s Point, obviously has a religious underpinning. We see Jesse hammer a cross into the ground—presumably where his parents were killed. There’s a reference to a mythological monster called the basilisk. A huge angel sculpture is found. A man named Elroy speculates that the house that he and his brother live in is haunted.  (“The house ain’t haunted, Elroy. You’re an idiot,” his brother says. “I’m not the one afraid to confront the mysteries of the metaphysical universe,” Elroy says.)

Savannah does intense yoga exercises. We hear references to the “glory of God.”

Sexual Content

Jesse and his friends literally jump into a lake, the guys sans shirts. Jesse has a crush on a popular girl at school and tries to invite her to prom by spelling the invite out on a pizza (with pepperoni). He later develops feelings for someone else, and the two hold hands. Eli, meanwhile, has feelings for Savannah, and they spend some innocent time together. Billy admits that he’s never had a serious girlfriend. He makes some joking comments about how “hot” he thinks Eli’s mother is.

Teens dance at a prom, where some female participants have shoulder-baring dresses. Jesse asks his sister for some makeup to cover his black eye.

Violent Content

The film essentially opens with a fight at school: Punches are thrown, and Jesse receives a black eye. Another fight takes place later. People are pushed and punched in the face. Someone’s hand is sliced open with a machete. Someone gets knocked off a cliff. A character is choked. Zack struggles with anger-management issues throughout the film.

A couple of guys fire guns on their property. The friends—trespassing on that property—think they’re the ones being fired at. There are insinuations that Zack and Reena’s father was abusive.

The death of Jesse and Savannah’s parents takes place offscreen, but we see the police at the family’s house amid the heartbreaking aftermath.

A student from the friends’ high school apparently killed himself earlier in the school year, and his locker is adorned with cards and messages. As Jesse struggles with his own suicidal thoughts, he sometimes has dreams or visions of that locker—the dead student’s picture replaced with his own. The locker is open and glows red, and it seems to beckon Jesse to walk through it.

Crude or Profane Language

The word “a–” is nearly spoken once before being (barely) cut off. We also hear a surprising number of stand-ins for the f-word, including “freaking” and “frigging.” “Crap” is also uttered. A character begins to say the phrase “son of a—”, but the phrase is not completed. Someone calls another character a “dipstick.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Savannah takes prescription medication for her anxiety. She admits that she joined the quest because those pills were in the back seat of her car (which Jesse took), and that she can’t go long without taking them.

Two ancillary characters drink beer and fire bullets at the empty cans. When someone accidentally spills part of one of their cans, the imbiber worries that the house may be haunted.

Other Negative Elements

Jesse essentially steals his sister’s car to leave on his trip-of-a-lifetime. And the very first stage of the quest involves trespassing on someone else’s property and breaking into their house. (“Think of it more as hooliganry,” Billy says. “It’s more fun that way.”)

A couple of kids get sent to the principal’s office for fighting.


“Darkness is part of us, but it doesn’t have to define us.”

We hear these words toward the end of What Rhymes With Reason, and they sum up the reason for the movie itself. The film is being released in theaters for just one day, Oct. 10, World Mental Health Day. Partnering with 988 Mental Health Lifeline and Fathom Events, What Rhymes With Reason tackles the senstive issue of mental illness in an unusual context: an adventure dramedy.

That may feel counterintuitive, but the approach can work. I’ve struggled with depression myself, and sometimes a silly joke can do more for me than a heart-to-heart. Laughter might not be the best medicine. But in the realm of mental illness, it can be a pretty nice analgesic.

Admittedly, that conceit comes with its own set of issues. The movie does have a Goonies vibe to it—what with its treasure maps and secret doors and even foreboding castles. The film can swing rapidly between light-hearted hijinks and soul-baring pain. Questions like “Do I want to see another sunrise?” can sit a bit uncomfortably next to “Who should I ask to prom?” Sure, mental illness isn’t a cookie-cutter thing, and that tension probably reflects the experience of some. But in the context of a movie it can feel a bit false.

But I liked what the movie was trying to do. So often, laughs hide the pain. Here, laughs form an important counterpoint. So often people bury their anxiety and grief. Here, they allow it to breathe. And that’s what those of us who suffer from mental illness must remember to do, too. Breathe. Talk. Trust. Healing can’t take place by holding all the darkness inside a black bottle. You need to open it up. Pour it out. And, hopefully, let it drain away.

The film acknowledges that these issues have no quick fix. A trip to Zion’s Point—or a trip to a well-meaning movie—won’t make everything better. But perhaps they can be catalysts for real healing—the choices we make each day and the help we find along the way. And if What Rhymes With Reason pushes the dialogue along, we’re all for it.

The Plugged In Show logo
Elevate family time with our parent-friendly entertainment reviews! The Plugged In Podcast has in-depth conversations on the latest movies, video games, social media and more.
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.