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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Know your worth and stand up for what you believe in. All people should be treated equally, no matter their sex, social status, or financial standing. Understanding your emotions can help you control them. Friendship is an important part of life. Happiness can come from helping others.
Positive Role Models
Birdy is a 14-year-old girl dealing with both adolescence and her father, Lord Rollo, trying to marry her to a wealthy suitor against her will. She is flawed, prone to jealously, sometimes mean to those around her. But most of the time she is a good friend and sticks up for herself. Rollo is selfish, often drunk, and treats Birdy badly. Yet he also has moments of kindness, particularly toward his wife, Lady Aislinn, and occasionally Birdy. Birdy's friends and inner circle are all likable and kind toward her, even when she doesn't necessarily deserve it.
Lead character (a 14-year-old girl) is portrayed as a realistic teen, albeit one from a position of privilege. Her parents are a lord and lady, but her father has spent all the family's money. The film makes fun of what a girl was and wasn't allowed to do in 13th century England and how they were often treated as the property of men. The supporting cast has a number of people of color. When a young teenage boy hints to his friend that he is gay, his friend embraces him in an act of solidarity.
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Violence & Scariness
A character has a stillbirth; references to several others. Another birth scene is distressing but has a happier outcome. A teen is routinely caned in the hand for misbehaving. Reference to other forms of corporal punishment as well as hangings. A character punches someone in the nose. A duel between two characters sees one of them being cut in the side with a sword, resulting in a bloody wound. A character hits and pushes their nurse. Someone sets fire to an outdoor toilet. An owl is fed a dead mouse and a pigeon drops dead from the sky. Morbid jokes about the death of a parent and a 9-year-old child.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen crushes, kisses, and discussions about love. A character starts her period for the first time, hiding her bloody sheets under the floorboards. A discussion about what a virgin is involves much innuendo. A character chases someone around a room at a party while saying they want to "fornicate." Jokes about the Virgin Mary not being a virgin. Characters are seen bathing -- no nudity. A child appears to interrupt their parents in bed; nothing explicit shown. Marriages both arranged and for love.
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Language includes "bum," "arse," "bloody," "poo," "shut up," "farting," "pissed," "crap," "s--t," "s--thole," "bugger," and "wench." "God" is used as an exclamation. Fart jokes.
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Products & Purchases
A character spends all their family money on frivolous gifts and gambling. Subsequently they are determined to marry off their daughter for money. Expensive weddings take place. Wide divide between ruling and non-ruling classes, reflective of 13th century England.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
References to a character being drunk all the time; character seen drinking on numerous occasions. A teen tries some alcohol but spits it out after tasting it. Characters are shown to be merry at a wedding. The next day a character is hung over and throws up. Reference to smoking a pipe.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Catherine Called Birdy is a coming-of-age comedy (based on the popular same-named 1994 book) set in medieval England. It's sweet but has sexual references and deals with some tough subject matter. Directed by Lena Dunham, the story follows a 14-year-old girl named Birdy (Bella Ramsey) who's dealing with adolescence -- including first crushes and periods -- all while her father, Lord Rollo (Andrew Scott), tries to marry her off so that he can restore the family's wealth. There are discussions about virginity and stillbirth, but nothing overly graphic is shown, and many of the references are made via innuendo. That said, there is a distressing birth scene, as well as a duel (with swords) that results in a non-fatal bloody wound. Reflecting the 13th century time period, girls are married against their will and treated like property. But Dunham has fun ridiculing these traditions, and Birdy uses her smarts to stay one step ahead of her father -- and any potential husbands. Rollo is portrayed as always being drunk, and another character is seen throwing up after a wedding. There's also some potty humor and occasional use of "s--t." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Adapted from a popular YA book of the same name, this sweet but edgy coming-of-age comedy is written and directed by Lena Dunham, best known for her breakout show Girls. Whereas that gave an honest and often explicit look at the lives of a group of 20-something women, Catherine Called Birdy turns its attention to female adolescence. In 13th century England, Catherine -- or Birdy as she is known on account of her collection of pet birds -- must deal with the challenges all young teenage girls face, albeit from a position of privilege. This includes navigating her way through her first crush and having her first period, something she goes to lengths to hide from her father for fear it will speed up his desire to marry her off.
Dunham skillfully manages to land the jokes consistently, despite at times dealing with heavy subject matter, including stillbirths and arranged marriages. A routine about "smallpox" is particularly funny. Scott, as Birdy's hapless father, in particular does a great job of keeping his character likable despite his at times abhorrent behavior. But it's Ramsey who is the real star. Flawed like any other 14-year-old, she keeps you rooting for her throughout. There's also a great soundtrack full of excellent cover versions to enjoy.
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.