Earnest, slow drama shows teens dealing with mature themes.
No reviews yet.Add your rating
No reviews yet.Add your rating
Common Sense is a nonprofit organization. Your purchase helps us remain independent and ad-free.
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
A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Camilla Dickinson, based on a lesser-known book by Madeleine L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time), takes place in 1948 New York City and showcases a 15-year-old upper-class girl in the throes of first love and coming of age. Camilla must come to terms with her mother's infidelity, her father's coldness, and the dysfunctional family of her best friend, whose parents are abusive alcoholics and whose charismatic brother is thought to be troubled. Faith in God and an afterlife, for which L'Engle was well-known, play a prominent role in the resolution of the young hero's move from resigned victim to outspoken defender of her self-hood. Though there's no overt sexual activity, Camilla's mother and her lover are careless in their affair, never shielding the vulnerable girl from awareness of it. The alcoholic parents make no attempt to hide their substance abuse from their teens; a moment of violence between the parents is heard. Camilla and her friend have a conversation about sex that is supposedly true to its time but feels naive even for the late 1940s. There are a couple of curses ("hell," "damned"), and a name-calling parent is cruel to her children.
There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the Story?
CAMILLA DICKINSON (Adelaide Clemens) is an only child living with two very dysfunctional parents (Samantha Mathis and Cary Elwes) in 1940s New York City. Her childish, self-absorbed mom is having an affair; her dad is cold, emotionally stunted, and prone to arbitrary, thought-free, but dogmatic decisions. Camilla is caught between the two of them, consistently used as a source for information and then as a messenger to convey their thorny emotions. Camilla's best friend, Louisa, is stuck in a different kind of broken household. Her parents are drunks, mean and negligent; her brother Frank is troubled. When Camilla and Frank connect, things begin looking up for the struggling girl. Of course, the snobbish Dickinsons disapprove and threaten Camilla with dire consequences. To make matters worse, Luisa feels threatened by what she sees as Camilla's abandonment. But Camilla is made of sturdy stuff. Developing a sense of her own independence because of her new relationship -- and calling upon her deeply held religious beliefs, as well as her passion for science -- Camilla is able to transcend the despair forced upon her by those she cares about.
Is It Any Good?
The basic disconnect between two sets of parents and their teen children is at the heart of this slow-moving, mostly humorless drama that will have little resonance for today's kids. Three sets of parents are portrayed, all as one-note entities: the cold, narcissistic, immature couple; the alcoholic, abusive parents; and, finally, a mom and dad who, though they've lost their only child to an accident, are ever-smiling, ever-understanding, and head-over-heels in love with each other. It's no wonder that the three teen protagonists are baffled by their lives and what is expected of them. Note that Madeleine L'Engle is credited as one of the screenwriters, as is the director. The result is a well-meaning effort to bring a dated, unsubtle, and spiritually simplistic story to modern young audiences. On the plus side, the film has strong production values: set design, costumes, editing, and a wonderful performance by Colby Minifie as Luisa.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the lack of communication in both families depicted here. If this is an accurate representation of at least some families in the 1940s, how have things changed?
What, if anything, do Camilla, Luisa, and Frank have in common with the teens of today? Do you identify with any of them? If yes, which one, and why?
How does the Rowan parents' alcoholism affect their children? What resources might Luisa and Frank have today if they were in a similar situation?
- On DVD or streaming: August 25, 2015
- Cast: Adelaide Clemens, Samantha Mathis, Cary Elwes
- Director: Cornelia Duryee Moore
- Studio: North by Northwest Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, High School
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: December 8, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
The Man in the Moon
Reese Witherspoon shines in coming-of-age tale.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Faithful adaptation of classic family story.
Touching look at tough mom-daughter relationship.
The Magic of Belle Isle
Family drama has syrupy plot but fabulous performances.
For kids who love dramas
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