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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Denial is a powerful fact-based story about an American professor who's taken to court in England by a man she accused of being a Holocaust denier. The talky drama may go over the head of younger viewers -- and the subject matter is pretty intense (historical photos from WWII are shown, and there's much discussion of the Holocaust). But it's thought-provoking viewing for teens and adults, with themes including integrity, courage, and teamwork. Expect some swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k") and a fair amount of drinking.
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What's the story?
In DENIAL, Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) -- whose book about her real-life experiences provided the inspiration for the film -- does battle with a Holocaust-denying Goliath, David Irving (Timothy Spall), in the British courts. Irving sues her in England for supposedly maligning him with her accusations that he's a Holocaust denier. British courts function differently than American ones, and Lipstadt's barristers, led by Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) and Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), prefer that the very vocal professor let them take the lead.
Is it any good?
This drama will leave you pondering the power of truth in battling what many may only want to label as evil: those who deny the Holocaust's existence. Using an understated approach, director Mick Jackson says a lot with silence and stares, confining the bluster to one source: Spall's David Irving, who's like an Internet troll come alive. In quieter movies like these, it's important to have actors who are both experienced and gifted, and Denial has them in spades.
But even though the subject matter is riveting, the movie too often feels like more of an intellectual exercise than the deeply emotional experience it had the potential to be. While it admirably takes its time to lay out the lawsuit and the events leading up to it, it's lacking in details when it comes to depicting the in-court battle itself. Some of this can be chalked up to the fact that Lipstadt never takes the stand (though somehow Weisz still manages to make her presence significant). Courtroom dramas center on confrontations between the accuser and the accused; unfortunately, we don't quite get that here. Still, Denial is worth a watch, if only to remind us that we should never forget the horrors of World War II.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does this movie approach the subject of the Holocaust differently from other films? How is it similar? How does it depict the motivations of a Holocaust denier?
What do "freedom of speech" and "libel" mean? How do they appear to differ in the United States and the United Kingdom? What are the major differences? How does this affect how Deborah approaches her defense?
- In theaters: September 30, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: January 3, 2017
- Cast: Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson
- Director: Mick Jackson
- Studio: Bleecker Street
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, History
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity, Teamwork
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material and brief strong language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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