A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
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