A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Borg vs. McEnroe is based on the true story of the 1980 Wimbledon tennis match between Sweden's four-time champ, Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason), and America's up-and-comer John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf); many consider their match to be the greatest game in the tournament's history. Language -- especially McEnroe's -- is quite strong and frequent, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Characters have fits of rage, and a man throws a teen boy on the ground. Topless women are briefly seen in a nightclub, and a man gropes a woman's breast through her clothes. A couple undresses for bed, and a man takes a shower, but nothing graphic/sensitive is shown in those scenes. Characters drink in a nightclub, have champagne for a celebration, and smoke occasionally. Overall, this is a solid sports movie that may appeal to older teens and adults.
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What's the story?
In BORG VS. McENROE, it's 1980, and the Wimbledon tennis championship is approaching. Swedish player Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) is a four-time world champ -- the youngest in the tournament's history -- and if he wins a fifth time, he'll set another world record. Where Borg is cool-headed and imperturbable, his challenger is the hot-headed, badly behaved American John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf). As game day approaches, Borg considers his fame and his past with coach Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgard), who taught Borg to suppress his own temper. Meanwhile, McEnroe deals with his infamous image and his own past as an exceptional student while obsessively mapping out the tournament on his hotel wall. The match itself, with these two polar opposites at the peak of their skills, is set to become one of the greatest ever played. But who will win?
Is it any good?
While this sports movie skimps on details and seems a bit rushed in spots, it nevertheless nicely balances its handling of the two tennis champs, aided in no small part by terrific lead performances. Director Janus Metz has created a truly international production: Characters speak their own native languages, translated in subtitles, making Borg vs. McEnroe feel like a bigger movie than it really is.
That said, the movie is betrayed somewhat by hand-held cinematography and choppy editing; a little more patience could have yielded more beauty. The most glaring example is in the final game sequence, which feels hectic. It's too bad the filmmakers didn't take their chance to slow it down and demonstrate just why it's considered perhaps the greatest match in Wimbledon history. Metz misses some of the poetry, instead relying on the scoreboard and the announcers' commentary to explain the game's epic proportions. The movie's best achievement is to convince us that the actors are actually as good as the real-life champs; there's never a slip or a trick that's exposed. As it goes on, the movie's picture of these two players as polar opposites begins to cast its own spell, and when it comes down to just the two of them -- the only two who can understand each other -- Borg vs. McEnroe can be quite moving.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Borg vs. McEnroe's angry/violent moments. How do the characters' explosive fits of rage make you feel? How do the different characters get angry or react to anger?
The athletes in the movie seem to have gone through tough experiences and suffered somewhat. Do you think that's a necessary part of becoming great at sports -- or anything?
Are either of these tennis champs role models, as portrayed in the movie?
How accurate do you think the movie is compared to the way things really happened? Why might filmmakers choose to alter the facts in movies that are based on real life?
How is the world of 1980 different from the world of today? How is it the same?
- In theaters: April 13, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: July 3, 2018
- Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Sverrir Gudnason
- Director: Janus Metz
- Studio: Neon
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, History
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, and some nudity
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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