A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Even under the most difficult circumstances, confidence, resourcefulness, and self-respect can provide an individual with a productive, happy life. Promotes strong religious values, finding one's passion, and open communication.
Positive Role Models
Protagonist learns to forge her own way in life by relying on friendship, spirituality, and openness. By the film's end, she refuses to be a victim or unwilling pawn in the lives of others. Parental units (three sets) are stereotypical and one-dimensional. The white upper-class mom and dad are self-absorbed, cold, thoughtless, snobby, and immature. A struggling alcoholic couple brings misery to the family and is guilty of negligence, mistreatment, and narcissism. The one positive example of parenting is as one-dimensional as the others; in this case, they're hardworking middle-class storekeepers who laugh and are sensitive and compassionate at all times. The only African-American character is a household cook and maid.
Violence & Scariness
An accidental teen death is described. An alcoholic couple engages in a brief violent episode; it's heard but not seen. A woman is treated for an unsuccessful suicide attempt, which occurs off-camera.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married woman and her lover kiss, embrace, and show passion in front of the woman's teen daughter in several scenes. A boy smooches with a girl in a café. A discussion between two 15-year-old girls is meant to be an initial, tentative discussion of sexuality: "What do you know about sex?" "Do you know what a man looks like undressed?" "Do you think you'll like 'doing it'?" "No man wants a girl he can have easily."
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One "hell" and one "damned." An abusive, venomous woman berates her teen children.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Alcohol consumption in numerous scenes. A father orders an alcoholic drink for his underage teen in a restaurant. A married couple is often shown drinking or already drunk.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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.