Beyond the Sea

Movie review by
Alyssa Ellsworth, Common Sense Media
Beyond the Sea Movie Poster Image
Interesting tale isn't likely to appeal to kids.
  • PG-13
  • 2004
  • 118 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Selfish behavior and references to marital strife.


Character attacks a car with golf clubs, threatened violence.


An intimate scene between committed couple, references to sleeping around, teenage pregnancy.


Joking insults and name calling, strong language used by angry characters and an angry marital dispute.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking, reference to drinking problem, references to pills.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bobby Darin suffered from painful rheumatic fever as a child, was physically unwell, and died from his illness at the age of 37. This movie portrays his suffering as well as his death, which younger audiences might find scary. Mature themes, complicated characters, and implicit alcohol abuse make this movie inappropriate for sensitive viewers. Also, two characters die. Expect frequent swearing and insults, strong angry language, and references to sleeping around. A committed couple shares a scene of implicit sexuality. There is a raging marital dispute, ongoing arguments between friends and family, as well as questionable priorities for characters.

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What's the story?

In BEYOND THE SEA, Kevin Spacey portrays nightclub singer Bobby Darin, of "Mack the Knife" and "Splish Splash" fame. The story is told as a musical, a movie Darin is filming about his own life, while he relives many of the moments that changed his path for better or for worse. At the prompting of a young boy who is set to play Darin as a child, Darin remembers his highs and lows from his illness in youth to his triumphant return to stage prior to his death. With a superb supporting cast including Bob Hoskins, Brenda Blethyn, and Kate Bosworth, it's easy to feel the loyalty, love, and support that his family gave him throughout his life. Perhaps that is why it's so much harder to sympathize when Darin clearly is more open and loving with his inner-child (represented by the actor set to play him as a youth) than with his son or any other of his family members.

Is it any good?

Spacey also directed this film, and his bravery in choosing the subject is as evident as the bravery Darin exhibits in overcoming painful illness to succeed on stage. The challenge is that Darin is not all that likeable. His ambition and disconnect with others results in the sense that we are watching a tightly self-controlled character actor (Spacey) play a tightly self-controlled performer whose story is interesting and at times like a soap-opera but ultimately devoid of real feeling.

Spacey, older than Darin at his early death, was criticized for playing the part himself. That critique is unfair as Spacey gives a fantastic, nuanced portrayal of a performer who was a complicated man, who lived by his façade. This movie detracts nothing from the toe-tapping appeal of Darin's music, while adding nothing to the appeal of the man himself. There's not much here for kids -- they aren't likely to care. Some may want to watch to see Kate Bosworth, but otherwise you might want to save this for a night when the kids are out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the factors, including ambition, that kept Darin alive long after doctors thought he should have died. Why is it so important for him to be successful? Darin is not portrayed as an entirely likeable character: what do you find moving about his choices? Do you think he redeems himself?

Movie details

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