A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The film can be brutal, but themes of courage, perseverance, and compassion shine through, with moments of kindness having more impact amid the terrible events.
Positive Role Models
Lina is a strong, self-actualized girl who fights for freedom and her rights, as well as those of others, even at great personal danger. Her parents are also noble characters who protect Lina whenever they can and encourage her to do her best. Kretzsky is a tormented character who hates the terrible things he does as a soldier but does them anyway.
Violence & Scariness
Sad/violent scenes are intermittent but have significant impact. A baby dies; grieving mom shrieks and wails. Viewers briefly see the dead baby, watch as mother is murdered. Men leer at, grope female characters (including a teen) who bathe in groups. Characters are shot suddenly, point-blank, for protesting poor treatment. A man forcibly kisses, gropes a woman and threatens rape. A character dies by suicide, is seen hanging from a rope.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two characters flirt, eventually share a tender kiss. Breasts (female) and buttocks (male and female) are shown in nonsexual scenes (skinny-dipping and forced group bathing at labor camp).
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Language is infrequent but includes "pr--k" (in a subtitle, referring to body part, which a man says will "freeze and fall off" if he doesn't "use it"), "bitch" (also in a subtitle), "hell."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Many characters, including teens, smoke cigarettes. Men drink beer with dinner. A character toasts himself with vodka.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ashes in the Snow is a WWII drama based on Ruta Sepetys' young adult novel Between Shades of Gray. Bel Powley stars as a young Lithuanian girl whose family is taken prisoner by Stalinist forces and imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp. The film's violence, which is very realistic and usually victimizing the innocent, is very upsetting. Babies, parents, older people, and other defenseless people are all rounded up by soldiers with guns and taken to the camp, where some of them are shot point-blank by soldiers (viewers see the bodies slump over and hear the noise but don't see gore). One character dies via suicide; viewers see his body hanging from the ceiling. Men leer and and try to grab women and teen girls (who are forced to bathe in groups); one man gropes and kisses a woman and threatens to rape her. Two characters share a flirtation and a kiss; nonsexual nudity includes breasts and buttocks. Language is infrequent but includes "pr--k," "bitch," and "hell." Many characters smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol at dinner or to toast successes. This drama can be grim, but it also has clear themes of courage, perseverance, and compassion. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Beautiful scenery and powerful actors bring Sepetys' book to life, with much of the plot (including its brutal violence) intact in this painful, emotional adaptation. Many of Ashes in the Snow's story beats will seem familiar to viewers who've watched a Holocaust drama (and certainly those who've read the source novel): Lina's early life seems like a dream of contentment, with comfort, a loving family, a fancy car, flirtatious boys. But after the soldiers' nighttime visit, there's no more sunshine, no more ease. There are only beets and dirt and cold and sudden bullets, a family ripped apart, a bleak future.
Powley's huge eyes communicate Lina's bottomless pain, and Kongsli is terrific as her steadfast, principled mother. Martin Wallström is also effective as the tortured Kretzsky, a half-Ukrainian soldier who knows he's being pushed into doing the terrible things he must do to rise in Stalin's army -- but does them anyway. Nothing comes easy for these characters, and that makes the film not very easy to watch. But as a document of WWII horrors that are far less well-known than the Holocaust, Ashes in the Snow is an invaluable document that illuminates a terrible period in world history.
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.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Drama Movies That Tug at the Heartstrings
World War II Books for Kids
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.See how we rate