Claudine

Movie review by
Lynnette Nicholas, Common Sense Media
Claudine Movie Poster Image
'70s romantic drama about black family has cursing, violence
  • PG
  • 1974
  • 92 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes of hard work, teamwork, courage, and risk-taking are prevalent. There's also the notion of taking pride in the work that you do, despite not being paid lots of money. Overall, the movie has a positive and uplifting feel and arguably love wins.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A mother is far from perfect, but she sacrifices for her kids while simultaneously not giving up on love. A man who has been divorced twice and estranged from his own kids is reluctant to embrace fatherhood, yet he overcomes his fears. Adults who work low-income jobs don't define their identity on the premise of their material belongings, but rather by their ability to love. 

Violence

A mom whips her older teenage daughter. An older sibling slaps a younger sibling.

Sex

Two adults kiss in bed. A man's backside is shown briefly. An older daughter's breasts are briefly exposed. Kids talk frankly about sex. Teen pregnancy is a plot point.

Language

“Hell,” “damn,” “ass,” “s--t,” “goddamn,” “bitch,” and “t-ts” are used. The term "playing with himself" is used. Kids talk frankly about sex; “penis” and “vagina” are used. The "N" word is said.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Couple of bar scenes. Claudine and other characters occasionally smoke cigarettes. There's occasional adult drinking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Claudine is a romantic comedy and drama about a single mother of six in Harlem who works as a maid for a wealthy white family. It's the 1970s and while Claudine is willing to work, she must hide the fact that she works to keep getting the government assistance that she needs to provide for her kids. As the story unfolds, the movie addresses themes such as welfare, systemic oppression, single-parent households, divorce, teenage pregnancy, social justice reform, and more. A mother whips her teenage daughter when she finds out that she's pregnant. A man's backside is shown briefly. An older daughter's breasts are briefly exposed. Kids talk frankly about sex. Language includes "hell,” “damn,” "ass," “s--t,” "goddamn,” “bitch,” and "t-ts." The "N" word is said. Some of the adults in the movie drink and smoke, as well as one teenage daughter. This movie isn't a good fit for younger kids, but teens and adults will find the topics in the movie controversial and engaging.

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What's the story?

CLAUDINE is a romantic comedy and drama that centers on Claudine Price (Diahann Carroll), a single black mother living in Harlem who's hardworking, yet living on welfare with six children. She falls in love with a garbage collector, Rupert "Roop" Marshall (James Earl Jones). The pair's relationship is complicated by their lack of financial resources, restrictions of the welfare system, and the hostility of her kids, particularly eldest son Charles (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), who believes that Roop will leave their mother just like her previous husbands had. Roop also has his reservations about marrying a woman with six kids and providing for them. After several hardships and debating the financial issues relating to welfare, the couple decide to marry.

 

Is it any good?

Diahann Caroll (who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for this role) and James Earl Jones are dynamic in this romantic drama. Their genuine and realistic portrayals of the working poor allow viewers to witness love between two low-income black people and the effects of the welfare system during a time when the dynamic of the black family was polarized, all while showcasing a beautiful, hardworking mom who just wanted a better life for her kids and real love. The film depicts marginalized human beings candidly and compassionately. It depicts real people who may be pigeonholed by systemic oppression, but who still deserve the right to a better life.

The film also provides a succinct look into the welfare system in the 1970s. Claudine's predicament is that she's forced to choose between the government assistance that she receives that her family needs, and her love and desire to be with Roop. Her financial dependence on her government assistance and its restrictions against an adult male figure or spouse being in the home is a major obstacle. Different perspectives about the welfare systems are presented diplomatically. Charles, Claudine's oldest son, totally disagrees with the welfare system, because he believes that it pacifies the recipients of welfare and further enforces poverty. No matter how viewers may feel about the welfare system or those who are marginalized, the movie Claudine does a very effective job of showing the dreams, struggles, fears, frustrations, and desire to have love in a warm and dynamic way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the welfare system in America. What is welfare? How does the welfare system work? Who qualifies for welfare? How long should recipients of welfare receive it?  Should those on welfare feel shame?

  • What defines a good mother? A good parent? What risks does Claudine take in the film on behalf of her kids? In what ways does Claudine show courage, strength, and perseverance?

  • In what ways does Roop show humility? Does being a garbage collector make him less than a man who makes a lot of money?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love African American stories

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