A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Argues that all humans deserve to be humanized -- including, in this case, a fugitive war criminal. Sexism is presented as an accepted attitude.
Positive Role Models
Tanja is strong and dedicated. But the facts of the General's past -- and his apparent lack of reckoning with them -- make it hard to consider his representation "positive"; he's certainly no role model. His crimes aren't detailed, and his anti-Muslim hatred is implied rather than discussed.
Violence & Scariness
Brief bursts of non-bloody violence; one death. Guns brandished multiple times and fired once. Rape and murder described in the opening historical titles. A young woman forced at gunpoint to strip (her bare breasts seen). Description of an attempted inappropriate adult-child sexual relationship.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
All content related to sex is of a violent/nonconsensual nature; see "Violence."
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Strong language includes "f--k" and variants, plus "ass," "damn it," "s--t."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking (vodka-like beverages) and smoking are part of the culture as presented. Some drinking to excess. Smoking is prevalent, though not celebrated.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that An Ordinary Man is a drama starring Ben Kingsley as a wanted Serbian war criminal who bonds with a young cleaning woman (Hera Hilmar) while trying to avoid capture. The complexities of the Serbian conflict aren't explored, nor are the details of Kingsley's character's crimes -- it's really more of a character study than anything else. Mature content includes strong language (particularly "f--k"), a brief glimpse of a woman's bare breasts when she's forced to strip at gunpoint, verbal references to rape and murder, and short bursts of violence -- guns are seen/fired, and there's one death. Characters also smoke and drink, sometimes to excess. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This drama is extremely well-acted, and the cinematography and Serbian locations create a strong sense of place, but it lacks tension. An Ordinary Man isn't a thriller; it's a character study that delves into the humanity of someone who's committed inhuman acts. The film benefits from the expertise of Oscar-winner Kingsley and exciting Icelandic newcomer Hilmar as the initially hapless maid. Kingsley's General has his routine, prefers certain music, is starved for human connection. And Hilmar is a real find. Her outstanding performance is intelligent and multilayered. When she reveals new sides of herself, they're both surprising and organic. Hilmar has had limited Stateside exposure (though one role was in the controversial The Ottoman Lieutenant, also with Kingsley); hopefully, we'll be seeing much more of her.
But the film's fundamental lack of tension is a real problem. An Ordinary Man skirts certain realities: There's very brief discussion of the General's crimes; his hatred of Muslims is only briefly alluded to in a glance at a woman praying, and the human costs of what he's done are referred to only philosophically. The film is really about the futility of horrific actions taken "in service of ... country." We're never really afraid for his capture; he belies the supposed danger with careless actions, which would serve as a strong character trait in a thriller if there were actual consequences throughout. But as it is, that lack of aftereffects, especially in the way the film glides over his crimes, is probably the missing ballast. The superb Max (2002), which fictionally examined Hitler's failed-artist past, also hinted ominously at the dictator's future, making the whole exercise much more consequential. Likewise, Death and the Maiden, also starring Kingsley, carried more weight. An Ordinary Man owes more in tone to writer-director Brad Silberling's previous 10 Items or Less, in which an experienced older man (Morgan Freeman) wistfully instructs and learns from a beautiful young woman (Paz Vega). Ordinary doesn't captivate, but its performances reward connoisseurs of acting.
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.