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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that that this period drama set in Elizabethan England questions whether William Shakespeare was truly the author of the plays and poems attributed to his famous quill. The film focuses on several huge deceptions, so there's plenty of lying, manipulation, and scheming -- just about everyone is trying to obscure the truth. There are also some intense torture scenes and a few battles, as well as lots of innuendo and several scenes showing cleavage, glimpses of bare bottoms, and people in bed -- though there's no graphic nudity. Many of the movie's themes are rather adult, including the central literary hoax and the political implications of children born out of wedlock to royal parents.
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What's the story?
Who really wrote Romeo and Juliet? ANONYMOUS posits that William Shakespeare wasn't actually the acclaimed author of the most famous plays in the English language. Instead, the movie says, they were penned by a frustrated nobleman (Rhys Ifans) who desired nothing more than to write but was instead dragged into the machinations of Queen Elizabeth's court and forced to hide his passion, letting an illiterate actor take credit for his life's work. The literary deception is set against a political conspiracy, as the queen's advisors scheme to capture the throne; the two threads tie together as the real playwright attempts to use his words -- rather than swords -- to steer history.
Is it any good?
The film has a complex sequence, jumping back and forth between four different time periods, and can be hard to follow. Director Roland Emmerich is better known for his action blockbusters (Independence Day, 2012), and Anonymous works better when he's staging battles than in the many quiet moments when he's attempting to establish the literary fraud.
It's also hard to tell whether Emmerich actually believes in this great Shakespearean conspiracy or if he's just trying to spin a good tale. And it is a good story, with political intrigue, lusty lords and ladies, people with mysterious noble lineage, and some world-class schemers. Still, while the film is entertaining, some viewers might not be sure whether to take it as historical fact or simply a fanciful yarn.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Shakespeare. Do you buy the controversial theory that he might not have written his plays? Why do you think such ideas persist?
What are the movie's messages? What is it saying about honesty? Is it ever OK to lie?
What would you do if you were forbidden from pursuing the one source of passion in your life? Why was the Earl of Oxford willing to let others take credit for his work?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.