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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Addresses ideas related to faith/belief in the form of arguments about whether ghosts are real, whether there's an afterlife, whether there's a human soul. But in the end, movie suggests that nobody knows for sure and that anything's possible. (There's a sense of hope.) Scenes involving a scary shadow-play story lead to a character saying that "Scary stories make life less scary."
Positive Role Models
Hercule Poirot, like Sherlock Holmes, is fascinating. He's extremely bright, he grasps everything. But he seems sad, suffering from untold losses. He spends most of his time alone, seems locked into a very rigid way of thinking. His intelligence and skill are inspiring, but he's probably not someone to emulate in the long run. Other characters have flaws and questionable motivations. Women are smart, sharp, business savvy. Some characters are disbelievers in ghosts/the afterlife, some prey on the beliefs of the believers. One character says, "there is no such thing as psychic phenomena ... there is only psychic pain."
Main character Hercule Poirot is a White man. Most other characters are White, although performers come from all over Europe and Asia: Ireland (Branagh, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill), England (Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly), France (Camille Cottin), Italy (Riccardo Scamarcio), Malaysia (Michelle Yeoh), and the United States (Tina Fey). The actor who plays Nicholas Holland, Ali Khan, appears to be of Indian descent. Other characters of color appear in small/background parts. Women are depicted as smart, independent, and confident.
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Violence & Scariness
Murders and jump scares. Character falls from height and is impaled on statue. Character impales self with sword. Spooky stuff: ghosts, sudden noises, screaming, doors slamming, things falling, glass breaking, etc. Fighting, punching, slapping. One person holds another's head over broken window glass. Flashbacks to a person sinking into water and drowning, with others retrieving her lifeless body from the water. Poison used. Four large scratch marks on character's back. One person "clotheslines" another with his outstretched arm; the person hits the ground. Attempted drowning in a tub of apples. Character pushed off of bridge into water. People violently throw things across room. Character tripped by sliding crate. Threats. Cut finger. A bird suddenly attacks another bird. Bees fly out of a skeleton's mouth. A character talks about being a soldier, liberating the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and contending with typhus and death; he admits to "shooting himself through the chest." Dialogue about children locked in a basement and left to die.
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Sporadic language includes "s--t," "bastard," "Christ" (as an exclamation), "damn," "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A boy offers to get his distraught father "a pill."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Haunting in Venice is writer-director and star Kenneth Branagh's third murder mystery centering on novelist Agatha Christie's brilliant detective Hercule Poirot. It has a different tone from predecessors Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile: It's more contemplative, stark, and spooky. Violence includes murders, jump scares, people being impaled (one by a statue, one by a sword), ghosts, sudden noises, screaming, glass breaking, attempted drowning, fighting, punching, slapping, threatening with broken glass, poison, injury, and more. A woman is seen slipping under water and drowning, and there's discussion over whether she was murdered or died by suicide. Another character discusses an attempt at suicide. Infrequent language includes "s--t," "bastard," "Christ" (as an exclamation), "damn," and "hell." A boy offers to get his distraught father "a pill." The movie is quietly, eerily effective, raising questions about ideas related to faith and belief in the form of arguments about whether ghosts are real, whether there's an afterlife, and whether there's a human soul. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Stark and spooky, Branagh's third Poirot movie successfully adopts a whole new atmosphere. It's less exotic and edgier, more haunted; it's a tense, thoughtful, and satisfying mystery. Murder on the Orient Express had a fluid use of space aboard a cramped, moving train, while Death on the Nile used bright, open spaces. A Haunting in Venice, which is mainly set indoors, during a storm, and in the late hours of Halloween night -- when the barrier between the living and the dead is said to be at its thinnest -- plays with more shadowy, angular, and even hallucinogenic filmmaking.
Author Agatha Christie published the source novel, Hallowe'en Party, in 1969, more than 30 years after the Orient Express and Nile novels, perhaps suggesting a hard-earned fatalism, which Branagh attaches to this movie's fabric. He seems freshly inspired, and his direction flourishes through Christie's material. As ever, he's equally adept with his actors, himself giving an appealingly wounded performance while slowly stripping away the other characters' veneers of protection, revealing their painful pasts. The mystery itself is clever and effective, though it comes almost with a sense of resignation; there's no joy in solving this murder. Even so, A Haunting in Venice leaves off with a sense of promise.