Out of Africa

  • Review Date: April 24, 2010
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1986

Common Sense Media says

Enthralling epic about 1900s Africa tackles mature subjects.
  • Review Date: April 24, 2010
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1986

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

An imperialist theme permeates the movie, as befits its plot. This is Kenya in the early 1900s, when Europeans descended on the continent. Locals are treated like slaves, though one man makes it clear he doesn’t believe in this sense of entitlement. Women are seen as second-class citizens; for instance, one is given the cold shoulder when she enters a café/bar that forbids women entry. But she defies expectations and conventions, and evolved into a person who can stand on her own, through fear, change, and heartbreak.

Positive role models

Baroness Blixen stares many challenges in their face, and lives to tell the tale. After a steep learning curve, she learns to stand on her own, and ends up with a man who respects her but whom she learns she has to accept on his terms, too. Though she’s open-minded, Blixen and others are somewhat hobbled by the realities of the time period. She and a friend are a little shocked, for instance, by the romance that develops between a white man and a Somali woman.

Violence

Characters tote rifles, as appropriate for the time and the locale. They use them mostly for hunting. A woman shoots a bird and it’s shown getting hit and falling from the sky. Animals are flogged. Lions feast on cattle. A person slaps another. Hunters stalk lions with guns as one feasts on the carcass of a deer; they both hit one apiece.

Sex

A woman talks about having lovers; at one point, she’s involved with two brothers. A new husband takes the arrangement a little too lightly, flirting with a woman at his wedding. The couple is shown snuggling under a blanket, ostensibly naked though only their bare shoulders hint at what has transpired. Later, she catches a sexually transmitted disease, syphilis, from him after he is unfaithful. After being cured, she takes up with another man, with whom she’s very affectionate. (We see them kiss but not much else).

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

In the beginning, one character appears very attached to her belongings; she name-drops the brand, Limoges.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters imbibe whiskey and wine.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this engrossing period drama based on the biography of Danish baroness and her life in 1900s Africa offers lots of historical interest and sweeping romance, but tweens and younger may have trouble keeping interested through this long film. There’s no swearing and nudity, though the film certainly treads on mature subjects. There’s a marriage of convenience, and one character catches syphilis from her philandering husband, which renders her infertile but doesn’t destroy her. Some scenes depict animals being whipped; discussions about war hover over a section of the film; and there are a number of deaths to illness and accidents.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

This epic drama charts the journey of an affluent, worldly-but-somewhat-naive young woman, Karen “Isak” Dinesen (Meryl Streep), from her marriage to the aristocratic Baron Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer), a friend and sometime-lover who commits to her mainly for money, to her evolution as an strong plantation owner, avid storyteller, and survivor, set against 1900s colonial Kenya. Her marital arrangement leaves her feeling abandoned and unappreciated; she’d hoped to at least develop a deep friendship -- even love -- with her often-absent and unfaithful husband, but it doesn’t appear to be. But she finds solace in Denys Finch-Hatton (Robert Redford), an adventurer who teaches her much about independence, love, and Africa, and, in the end, remembering.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

OUT OF AFRICA is Meryl Streep at her iconic best, armed with a flawless accent and a deep understanding of her character. Her Karen Blixen follows a formidable, and believable, arc, one accompanied by such impressive companions as Redford, so comfortable in his gallant and handsome skin here, and Brandauer. The story is sprawling and compelling and so is Karen's metamorphosis: how she grows as a person; how she can’t make an uninterested husband love her; how she falls for a fiercely independent hunter who appreciates her but doesn’t want to be caged. (There’s one scene where he lovingly washes her hair and quotes poetry -- who can resist?)

John Barry’s compositions for the soundtrack heighten the film’s transporting quality; it places you in an altogether different, and romantic, time and place. Under the gentle hands of director Sydney Pollack, the landscape becomes a character, too. It enthralls the audience, the same way it once enthralled the baroness herself. As does the movie, which reaped handfuls of Academy Awards.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the baroness’ marriage: Why did she enter such an agreement? Why did she put up with it? What about her relationship with Denys?

  • What drew her to Africa? What kept her there?

  • What do you think about the political and social structure at that time? Was it right for them to have enslaved the locals?

  • How many historical movies can you think of where a woman is such a strong, independent character? Do you think these character traits were rare before women joined men in the workplace, for example, or even got the vote, or do you think they were just rarely depicted?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 26, 1986
DVD release date:April 27, 2010
Cast:Klaus Maria Brandauer, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford
Director:Sydney Pollack
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Drama
Topics:Book characters, History
Run time:160 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of Out of Africa was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bytommysportsgirl April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

A very magical movie!

Teen, 15 years old Written bywho3697cares December 30, 2008
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

A grand, sweeping epic

The acting is perfect, the picture looks perfect, and the story is perfect.

Teen, 14 years old Written byTotally500 September 4, 2010
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

A 5 Star film

A fantasic film that you and your child will enjoy.You will laugh cry and explore the sights and sounds of whats to offer

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

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