Based on a True Story

Movie review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Based on a True Story Movie Poster Image
Irritating psychological thriller has drinking, drug use.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The relationship at the heart of the movie is based on manipulation and obsession.

Positive Role Models

There are two female leads, but neither displays role model characteristics.


Smashing of objects (blender, cell phone). Verbal reference to a violent father. Character passed out in a muddy ditch in the rain.


Verbal reference to a "night of passion" and having sex.


Occasional use of "merda" ("s--t"), "cazzate" ("bulls--t"), "puttana" ("bitch").


Multiple brand names featured, including Apple computer, iPhone, Microsoft Word, and Kenwood appliances.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent wine/beer drinking by adults at dinner, at a party, at a bar. In at least one scene, adults drink hard liquor. Main character takes Xanax to relax. Character regularly smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Based on a True Story (aka D'après une histoire vraie) is a subtitled French psychological thriller, directed by Roman Polanski, about a toxic/obsessive friendship. It's based on the same-named novel by French author Delphine de Vigan. Adult characters drink frequently (wine, beer, hard liquor) in social settings, a character regularly takes Xanax to relax, and another smokes. There's little physical violence, though some behavior could be considered psychological abuse. Some aspects could potentially be too much for younger viewers, including suspenseful music, a clear sense of dread throughout the movie, and scenes in which a character is violently ill -- or passed out in a muddy ditch in the rain.

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What's the story?

In BASED ON A TRUE STORY, Delphine (Emmanuelle Seigner) is a writer who's just published a hugely successful -- and highly personal -- novel. As she tries to write another book, she's overcome with impenetrable writer's block and is tormented by anonymous letters criticizing her for supposedly selling out her family in exchange for success. When Elle (Eva Green), a seemingly self-confident and sympathetic admirer comes along, the two develop an intense friendship. As Delphine spirals deeper into a funk, she hands more and more of her life over to Elle, with disastrous consequences.

Is it any good?

Despite a great performance by Green as the eerily overbearing "friend," this psychological thriller fails to convince. Some might be intrigued by how reality and fiction can influence and shape each other. There are also some interesting dynamics that are explored in the relationship between the two main characters in Based on a True Story. For example, to what extent does Delphine's friendship with Elle benefit her, and vice versa? And when exactly does Elle start crossing the line?

Depending on your point of view, it can be fascinating to watch as Elle worms her way into taking over Delphine's life. Or it can be excruciatingly frustrating that Delphine doesn't see the obvious as she quietly and wholeheartedly surrenders to Elle. The finale becomes even more fantastical and far-fetched, before ending with an unsatisfying conclusion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between Delphine and Elle in Based on a True Story. What do they each get out of the friendship? What are the key ingredients to a healthy friendship?

  • What role do drinking and drug use play in the film? Do you think Delphine's decision-making is impacted by what she drinks and takes?

  • The movie is based on a novel. If you've read the novel, how does the movie compare? What about other movies based on books? How do they differ? Do you prefer to read the book before seeing the movie?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

Themes & Topics

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