A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Argues that generosity and kindness are occasionally more important than truth: For example, when given the opportunity to compliment a host on her food rather than insult her, choose the former. In another instance, Amos discovers that his father's best friend has bought all the copies of his father's scholarly book. Empathy is a strong theme. Suggests the importance of storytelling and writing. Also a thought-provoking message about the logic of oppressed peoples becoming allies because they understand persecution.
Positive Role Models
Amos is a clever, sensitive, kind boy who loves his mother, reading, writing, and telling stories. He comforts his parents when they're sad or upset. Fania is a wonderful storyteller who tries to instill generosity and sensitivity in Amos. Arieh is intelligent and quiet and loves Amos and Fania.
Violence & Scariness
Scenes flash back to WWII, to the forest where Germans killed thousands of Jewish civilians. In the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, there are scenes of people being shot and killed, including an innocent child and a supporting character. A character overdoses on pills and dies. A boy is ridiculed, pushed, and hit in the schoolyard.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few marital kisses. A married man holds hands with a woman (not his wife) at a restaurant.
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"Damn," "hell" (subtitled).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults smoke cigarettes and drink at social events. A woman with depression overdoses on pills.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Tale of Love and Darkness is a Hebrew-language adaptation of novelist Amos Oz' memoir about growing up in Palestine-turned-Israel after World War II. Natalie Portman, making her directorial debut, stars as Oz' mother, who was prone to depression -- mostly because she survived the war when so many of her family members died in the Holocaust, but also because the reality of Israel never lived up to her idealized dream of it. There's quite a bit of violence, including flashbacks to WWII atrocities and scenes of people being killed during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In one sequence, a child is shot and killed while playing in the streets. A character commits suicide via an overdose. Several characters smoke cigarettes, and there's social drinking. There are a few scenes of a married couple kissing and one that suggests a husband is having an affair. Subtitled language includes "damn" and "hell." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Portman's directorial debut sensitively and ethereally depicts the nuances of Amos Oz' upbringing alongside the creation of Israel. The Academy Award-winning actor-director is herself Israeli (she has dual citizenship) and fluent in Hebrew, and she obviously cares about the subject material -- Oz' childhood memoir and tribute to his mother, whose tales about her pre-WWII life in Rivne (now a part of Ukraine) fueled his love of stories. Portman delivers on her dual role as director and co-star (her large, expressive eyes are ideal for conveying a sense melancholy).
Tessler also does a fine job playing the young Oz, but A Tale of Love and Darkness is just as much about his mother and Israel's early days as it is about his own boyhood experiences. While splitting the time between two main characters makes sense, since clearly the stories are intertwined, occasionally you wish for a little more of Oz' complex mother, whose motivations and tragedies are unknowable, of course, because the story is told from her son's perspective. Those hoping for a broad look at Oz' life should know that the movie covers only a sliver of his life -- particularly the years between 1945 and 1952, when Israel becomes a nation and his mother battles the depression that ultimately claimed her life.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.