A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while there's no sex in this film, there's considerable fist fighting, violence, and death. Several characters, including main characters, are shot, crushed, and beaten bloody. There's also considerable sexual innuendo about Joseph's virility and machismo. Characters are defined by their class and ethnicity and often exploited. There's also a subtext of the westward expansion in which the government stole land from Native Americans.
What's the story?
In FAR AND AWAY, Ron Howard teams up with Tom Cruise and delicate-looking Nicole Kidman to bring an epic vision of the Westward expansion, Western ingenuity, and destiny. Cruise's plays Joseph, an Irish tenant farmer and the runt of his family. He's bullied and picked on and has big dreams. On his deathbed, Joseph's father all but orders him to get some land to prove his virility: "Without land, a man is nothing. Land is a man's very own soul. America," he gasps, "that's what you're looking for." Joseph travels to his landlord's house to avenge his father's death, and the landlord's daughter, Shannon (Kidman), whisks Joseph away with her to America, both dreaming of owning land on the western frontier of Oklahoma. Along the way, they face challenges to their physical, emotional, and spiritual health from people who exploit them, steal from them, and chase them.
Is it any good?
Far and Away has all the markings of an epic, even a race -- with covered wagons -- but its land-grab scene with horses and wagons toppling over one another is unintentionally hilarious. With a two hour and 20 minute running time, you'll be glad to have something to smile about in this intriguing but plodding movie.
But the premise doesn't have to make sense. Just go with it. It's all fate. They're fated to be together -- though we know it long before they admit it. Joseph is fated to own land. Shannon is fated to be a "modern" woman.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the westward expansion, the concept of "manifest destiny," and what else happened as a result of the Oklahoma purchase: the Trail of Tears. It's also a good opportunity for families to talk about how their relatives and ancestors immigrated to the U.S. and what barriers and challenges they faced. How different is it now for immigrants than it was for Joseph and Shannon? Is class still as important as it was then?
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