A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that a former slave and a former slave ship captain describe slavery in direct, no-holds-barred language. Flashbacks and dream sequences also involve slavery. A horse is beaten in an early scene. Instruments of physical abuse -- chains, restraints, clamps -- appear on screen. Men smoke pipes, and several characters drink liquor at parties and sometimes alone. Wilberforce suffers from colitis and takes opium-based medicine to treat it. Mild language ("hell" and "damn"), plus one very pointed use of the "N" word.
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What's the story?
AMAZING GRACE follows the career of early British abolitionist/evangelical Christian William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd). As the film begins, Wilberforce is dismayed by England's moral decline and thinks that he might be better suited for religion than politics. Already renowned for his work within the abolitionist movement, he first appears commanding a mud-covered knave to stop beating his horse. Wilbeforce's pained face shows his physical capacity for empathy, a theme that comes up repeatedly in the film.
Is it any good?
As the sober and reverential film begins, Wilberforce appears commanding a mud-covered knave to stop beating his horse. Wilbeforce's pained face shows his physical capacity for empathy, a theme that comes up repeatedly in the film. A series of flashbacks shows how Wilberforce earned his reputation. Their opponents are unconditionally malevolent, especially the Duke of Clarence (Toby Jones), who's introduced as he instructs an underling to "Fetch my [the "N" word]" -- he wants to use his "property" to up the ante in a card game.
Wilberforce's visible horror at this gesture soon turns into inspiration: He decides to make his enemies in government see the evils they're perpetuating. This thematic connection to the song "Amazing Grace" (which Wilberforce sings passionately in one scene) informs the movie's own structure. The more Wilberforce "sees" -- through flashbacks and imagined visions pictured while remorseful slave ship captain/"Amazing Grace" composer John Newton (Albert Finney) recalls abusing and killing slaves -- the more dedicated he becomes to his work.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Wilberforce connects his religious calling with his political career. How is his work inspired by his faith? What is the significance of the song "Amazing Grace," both for the early (and lengthy) abolitionist movement, and, later, during the Civil Rights movement in the United States? Do you think the politicians that Wilberforce was up against liked slavery? If not, why did they continue to support the practice? How is the political lobbying and dealmaking of Wilberforce and his gang similar to what goes on in politics today? How is it different?
- In theaters: February 23, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: November 13, 2007
- Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Gambon, Romola Garai
- Director: Michael Apted
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Company
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language.
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