Doctor Zhivago

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Doctor Zhivago Movie Poster Image
Epic drama combines romance, politics, mature themes.
  • PG-13
  • 1965
  • 200 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Sometimes people get caught up in events greater than themselves, and must do what they can to survive. During the Russian Revolution and the ensuing years of chaos, Dr. Zhivago is forced to choose between his wife and his mistress, and ultimately must make a difficult sacrifice to protect the woman he loves.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters struggle to get by after being swept up in the cataclysmic events of the Russian Revolution. Dr. Zhivago is noble, earnest, and uncompromising – not the best traits for the time. Though he seems happy with his wife, he also carries on a long-running affair with another woman.

Violence

Several major battle scenes that leave people maimed or dead, though little explicit violence. Some intense arguments, and one nasty rape scene.

Sex

No nudity or sex, but couples are shown in bed under the covers. The main character carries on a long-running extramarital affair. An older man seduces the teenage daughter of his mistress.

Language

Little coarse language. One man calls a woman a “bitch” during a heated argument.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Plenty of scenes feature drinking at parties, at meals, or other social events, or just to fend off the brutal Russian cold. Many people smoke cigarettes, and a few men enjoy their cigars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this epic historical film traces the tumultuous events of the Russian Revolution through the eyes of a noble doctor and poet. Dr. Zhivago’s ideals, and his very-personal poetry, have made him a marked man in the socialist state, and he and his family are forced to make some very difficult choices to survive in the new regime. He also must choose between his wife and mistress, though ultimately the decision is forced upon him by the tragic circumstances of the period. There are several significant battle scenes, but little explicit violence. And while Zhivago’s long-running affair is a key part of the story, there is no onscreen sex. Expect a good amount of smoking and drinking, especially vodka.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymoviefan1980s September 6, 2016

Riveting and gorgeous.

"Doctor Zhivago" is a riveting and gorgeous film. Omar Sharif shines as the Russian doctor and poet, plus, it features the great supporting cast with... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byhayal12 July 24, 2016

V. long but (mostly) worth it

This film is alternately visually arresting and historically interesting; some may find the plot, especially the ending, a little inconclusive, although some w... Continue reading

What's the story?

Inspired by Boris Pasternak’s novel of the same name, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO finds romance amid the political turmoil of the Bolshevik revolution. Omar Sharif stars as the titular Yuri Zhivago, a happily married poet who falls for a beautiful young woman, Lara (Julie Christie), after he witnesses the aftermath of her affair with an older, manipulative man (Rod Steiger). Later, they serve together at the battlefront as medics (he’s also a doctor, she’s a nurse), a relationship that blossoms into full-fledged passion. As the country tries to find its footing, Yuri and Lara are reunited and torn asunder. But Yuri can’t shake his memories of Lara, which he commits to poems that become national treasures.

Is it any good?

Doctor Zhivago astounded audiences when it debuted in 1965 with its exquisite cinematography, and decades later, it astonishes still. The Russian winters are baleful and stark; Julie Christie has never been more beautiful. But as a historical film, it is rudimentary at best; as a drama, it lacks the necessary momentum to move from one moment to another. At 200 minutes, it's overlong, and feels like it. And it’s difficult to understand what compels Yuri to betray a wife (Geraldine Chaplin) who appears to be besotted with him and whom, before he takes up with Lara, he seems to adore.

Still: Sharif, Christie, and, especially, Steiger, turn in memorable performances that mitigate the film’s deficits -- enough for it to take its rightful spot in cinematic history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Dr. Zhivago’s romantic choices. Did he love his wife? What about his mistress? How did he become entangled with both? What do you think about his choices?

  • How does this film explain the events of the Russian Revolution? Did you learn anything new about this turbulent period? Do you think it is accurate?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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