A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this bleak drama -- which depicts the total breakdown of society (including filth, squalor, graphic brutality, and sexual coercion) in the wake of a plague that leaves its victims blind -- isn't for kids. Several scenes depict the aftermath of the social collapse, including the absence of law and order, medical treatment, food and shelter, and more. There are also several sex scenes -- some of which are consensual, and some of which aren't -- and a good deal of strong language. Violence includes beatings, shootings, and much more.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Based on the novel by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Jose Saramago, BLINDNESS takes place in an unspecified modern city, where a small group of people are afflicted with a disease that takes away their vision and fills their eyes with nothing but a vast, featureless whiteness -- "like I'm swimming in milk," as one character puts it. When an unnamed ophthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo) is afflicted and taken to quarantine, his wife (Julianne Moore) claims that she's gone blind as well and must be taken with him -- even though she hasn't. Soon, the disease spreads like wildfire, and the quarantine facility is jammed with blind victims. As the outside world provides less and less help, a cruel, cold social order is imposed on the wards by a man (Gael Garcia Bernal) who forces inmates to trade their remaining valuables -- and then their bodies -- for food. Moore tries to save her husband and the others in her care, but what will that cost her, and it is it even be possible?
Is it any good?
Blindness isn't for everyone -- it's never shy about the real, rough consequences of the end of civilization -- but it's also lyrical, moving, and carries a fierce message of hope. Author Saramago reportedly spent nearly a decade rebuffing filmmakers who wanted to adapt his acclaimed novel; finally, though, director Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and screenwriter Don McKellar convinced the novelist that his book could be brought to the screen. The resulting film is, ultimately, gripping and harrowing and disconcerting; it's certainly one of the bleakest and most brutal portraits of the collapse of civilization ever seen on screen.
And yet, it's not hopeless or inhumane; there are several moments of grace and hope and kindness in the film, even among the muck and blood and cruelty. Moore's character is another showcase for the actress -- viewers watch as a silly, slight woman grows stronger and more assured under what seems like an unbearable burden of responsibility. Visually, the film is a wonder, capturing not just the crush and rush of panicked crowds but also the broken, bizarre landscape of a major metropolis in the wake of a horrible disaster.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the questions the film raises: What would happen if some catastrophic event shattered civilization? Would people come together in a time of crisis or fall apart? Families can also talk about Julianne Moore's character, who becomes a fierce protector to a small group of survivors -- and also grows as a person in her new role. Does crisis bring out the best in some people?
- In theaters: October 1, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: February 10, 2009
- Cast: Danny Glover, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo
- Director: Fernando Meirelles
- Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence including sexual assaults, language and sexuality/nudity.