A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Abigail is an action-adventure movie set in a magical world that bears similarities to Nazi Germany, with some scenes of fantasy violence. The film carries elements of the Harry Potter franchise in how a regular young girl -- Abigail (Tinatin Dalakishvili) -- realizes she's capable of magic. She makes for a strong female lead role, yet is underestimated by those around her. She continually defies the odds and proves her worth. She fights for what she believes in and seeks to protect the under-represented, those suffering at the hands of a tyrannical regime. Due to these battles there is much violence in the movie but it's presented in a fantastical way with no actual blood shed -- characters turn into black dust when killed. However, in the movie's most brutal scene, a character breaks a man's ;neck, before stabbing people with a sword. With the violence toned down by the fantasy elements, the movie is accessible to tweens and up. The movie also goes by the name Magical Adventures in the Forbidden City in some territories.
What's the story?
ABIGAIL is the tale of a young girl, Abigail (Tinatin Dalakishvili), who witnesses her father Jonathan (Eddie Marsan) being taken away, due to having contracted a virus in their bordered up city. The epidemic of this mysterious disease is controlled by a totalitarian state, but Abigail is not afraid to go up against the authorities in a bid to be reconnected with her father. Along the way, she discovers her city is full of magic -- and that she herself, has incredible magical powers.
Is it any good?
This movie has some interesting themes, and it's intriguing to draw parallels to oppressive regimes such as the Nazis, while injecting an element of fantasy and magic into the story. Yet while on paper this may work -- Abigail 's virus storyline being particularly timely in light of COVID-19 -- it's not particularly well told. The direction from Aleksandr Boguslavskiy -- who also co-wrote the script -- is conventional, and the acting, across the board, is underwhelming. The Russian-produced movie has a generic screenplay that struggles to work in the English language, giving off the feeling of a badly-dubbed advert, and would benefit had the actors been able to tell this story in Boguslavskiy's native tongue.
The special effects are not very impressive either, and perhaps given the limitations in the budget, less magical fight sequences would have been better so as not to put the spotlight on the evident lack of funds. But the story is interesting, as the blend of enchanting surrealism with the striking, dark realism of the ghetto the characters live in, makes for a unique feature film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Abigail. Did the fantasy elements make it less impactful? If so, why? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
Discuss the epidemic at the core of the story and how it might compare to COVID-19? What have been some of the challenges in light of COVID-19?
How does the regime in the movie echo that of the Nazis from World War II? What do you know about this period in history? How to talk to kids about violence, crime, and war.
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