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Twisty period drama has dark tone, mature sexual themes.
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 180 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While this is a love story on some level, it's weighed down by major themes of greed, deception, and duplicity. The world is peopled with dangerous characters, and the overall feel is rather grim.

Positive role models

All characters are flawed, although some as a result of being victimized, and consequently steal, lie, and cheat others in pursuit of their own desires. Men are also shown to have considerable power over women, although female characters get their vengeance in the end.


Violence isn't constant, but there are hangings, choking, torture, and stabbings (with a fair amount of blood).


Sexually charged kissing (between both men and women, and women and women), plus simulated sexual activity (including intercourse). Suggested nudity in the form of bare backs, etc., plus a book illustration that clearly shows male and female genitalia. The title itself is a euphemism for a person skilled in masturbation.


Audible terms include "damn," "ass," "bitch," and slang like "bleedin'," with a few stronger words like "f--kstaff."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking, mostly in the background.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, although this is a period piece set in Victorian England, it's based on a 2002 novel, the title of which is a double entendre for a person skilled in pickpocketing...and masturbation. As a result, it includes modern sexual themes (including a sexual relationship between two women) that you might not expect, with simulated sex acts between characters onscreen, albeit with no nudity -- just the occasional bare back. Language is a bit salty, too, with audible terms like "bitch," "ass," and "f--kstaff," and there's also occasional violence (including hangings and stabbings) with some blood. Alcohol consumption is limited to social drinking.

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What's the story?

Based on Sarah Waters' titillating 2002 novel of the same name, FINGERSMITH follows the lives of two women -- streetwise pickpocket Sue Trinder (Sally Hawkins) and sheltered heiress Maud Lilly (Elaine Cassidy) -- whose destinies become intertwined when the handsome Gentleman aka Richard Rivers (Rupert Evans) involves them both in a complicated inheritance scam. Little does Gentleman know that the women are secretly involved with each other.

Is it any good?


For ardent fans of BBC costume dramas, Fingersmith looks like an obvious pick. But if you aren't familiar with the miniseries' source material, you might be in for a surprise when it comes to the plot. After all, lesbian love affairs aren't typically the stuff such miniseries are made of.

Aside from the same-sex romance, however, there's a whole lot more to the story, and it's told effectively with clever plot twists and switches of perspective that deliver a sufficiently juicy tale of greed, deception, and mistaken identity. Jane Austen it's definitely not, but for the right age group, it's a bloody good time.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about sexual content as it relates to the story. Does the sexual storyline between the two women seem illustrative or excessive? Does the nature of their relationship surprise you for the time period? Is the story ultimately about love, sex, or both?

  • In terms of men, women, and power, who appears to be calling the shots? How does the level of power and freedom women of the Victorian era had compare to that of modern women? Which time period would you rather live in?

  • How does the tone of this series relate to other costume dramas you've seen that were set in the same time period? Is the overall feel decidedly darker? How do the art direction, writing, and cinematography help communicate the series' mood?

Movie details

DVD/Streaming release date:September 13, 2005
Cast:Elaine Cassidy, Sally Hawkins
Director:Aisling Walsh
Studio:Acorn Media
Topics:Book characters, History
Run time:180 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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