Always (1989)

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Always (1989) Movie Poster Image
Sentimental '80s romantic adventure has mild cursing.
  • PG
  • 1989
  • 122 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

To gain your own freedom, you have to give it to others. Memories shouldn't hold you back from living life and experiencing happiness. The only pain you carry into the afterlife is from the love you held back. Mild sexism in referring to Dorinda as a girl, a brief "you know how women are" comment, and from Pete saying he won't allow Dorinda to pursue further certification as a firefighting pilot. Pete and Al inhale helium from balloons; a brief disclaimer after the credits warns of associated dangers.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dorinda is a great role model as a woman in a male-dominated, risky profession. The entire cast are brave, loyal firefighters who make sacrifices and risk their lives to save others. There are no villains, and the worst character flaws are stubbornness and recklessness.

Violence

Peril from forest fires, dangerous firefighting flight maneuvers, and airplane malfunctions and fires. A plane explodes, killing the pilot; no blood or gore is shown.

Sex

A few kisses. Adults in bed wearing pajamas. Dorinda wears a white, clingy dress a few times; no sensitive parts are visible but her breasts are clearly outlined.

Language

"D--khead," "d--king around," "hell," "son of a bitch," "bulls--t," "damn," and "Goddammit." Additional name calling like "fathead" and "dunce." Middle-finger gesture.

Consumerism

Incidental household and food products visible. Budweiser mentioned at a party.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink beer at a party and in a bar. Al smokes cigars several times. A comedy bit about lighting a cigar. Al and Pete inhale helium from a balloon; a disclaimer after the credits warns of the dangers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Always (1989) is a romance/adventure story directed by Steven Spielberg with occasional profanity, the strongest being "d--khead," "d--king around," and "bulls--t." Other content is mild, with a few kisses, suspense and tension, and for most of the movie the main character is a spirit from the afterlife. Peril from forest fires, dangerous firefighting flight maneuvers, and airplane malfunctions and fires. A plane explodes, killing the pilot; no blood or gore is shown. Dated sexism includes referring to Dorinda as a girl, and Pete trying to forbid her from getting certified to fly more dangerous missions. Dorinda's a great role model for young women, though, and otherwise Pete and the supporting characters are all positive role models. It's a good starting point for talking about what happens after we die, what the spirit is, and how or whether spirits of the past influence us.

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What's the story?

Firefighter pilots Pete Sandich (Richard Dreyfuss) and Dorinda Durston (Holly Hunter) know that their love will last for ALWAYS. After Pete's heroically saves his best friend Al (John Goodman) mid-flight, Pete's plane goes down. As Dorinda and Al try to pick up the pieces of their grief-stricken lives, Pete learns that he'll be returning to the world of firefighting as the guiding spirit for a young pilot who happens to be in love with Dorinda. Pete's attempts to sabotage Ted and Dorinda only cause him further pain. Can he learn to let Dorinda love again?

Is it any good?

Steven Spielberg's afterlife romance is mildly entertaining, best appreciated by those who like a healthy serving of sappiness alongside. And knowing that Always is a remake of a 1943 Spencer Tracy/Irene Dunne movie may help those in the eyeroll camp forgive the scenes where the music starts to swell, and swell some more. The action sequences are few and far between, but Spielberg's knack for creating and maintaining tension and suspense is well on display.

Dreyfuss and Hunter are most effective in the in-between moments, when their natural talents and finely-honed acting establish relatable characters we care about. Big-emotion scenes, which both actors also handle well, unfortunately feel too set up, as though the movie's pausing so they can get an "Oscar-worthy" moment out of it. Adults with high expectations of the strong cast and crew (Audrey Hepburn's last movie!) may feel disappointment that it doesn't live up to all that potential, but teen romance fans who can handle the themes of grief, the afterlife, and the occasional strong language will enjoy this solid love story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Always portrays the afterlife. Who or what is Hap? What do you think happens to people after they die?

  • What other Steven Spielberg movies have you seen? How does this one compare? Which is your favorite?

  • Did you learn anything about how airplanes are used to fight fires? How could you learn more?

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