Flight of the Red Balloon

  • Review Date: July 17, 2009
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Beautifully shot art-house drama won't interest young kids.
  • Review Date: July 17, 2009
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
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15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The themes of the movie are about the importance of family, art, and city life.

Positive role models

Although the absentee father is a negative role model, Suzanne is a loving single mother who's realistically frazzled at trying to juggle the work-life balance. Her dedication to her son and her career is refreshing to see on film. Song is a caring nanny who allows Simon to explore his artistic side.

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

Discussion of marriage and relationships but nothing overtly sexual.

Language

Subtitled language includes "bitch," "s--t," "idiot," and "stupid."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Not surprisingly, since this is a French film, adults smoke cigarettes fairly regularly and drink wine with meals.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this French-language film will not appeal to kids who aren't ready to read subtitles during movies. Families with foreign-film-savvy children should know that this one includes some mature themes about family make-up (single mother, absentee father, full-time nanny), relationships, and urban life. There's no violence or consumerism, but a few French profanities are translated into the subtitles ("s--t" is the most frequent culprit). Unsurprisingly, some adult characters smoke and drink wine.

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What's the story?

Parisian puppet theater actress Suzanne (Juliette Binoche) is a harried single mother, so she hires a new babysitter named Song (Song Fang) to watch over her young son Simon (Simon Iteanu). While Suzanne juggles her professional ambition with her obligations as a landlord, and more importantly, as a mother, Song and Simon bond. The nanny and her charge use a video camera to capture their everyday treks around Paris, and notice a red balloon is often floating just above their heads.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

With gorgeous cinematography, spare dialogue, and untraditional plot (nothing much happens), Chinese director Hsiao-hsien Hou's French-language film is definitely an art-house cinema's dream. The luscious camera work alone is worth the rental price, but the plot is a bit too thin for most American audiences used to action-driven fare.

More of a tribute to than a remake of the classic 1956 French film The Red Balloon, Hou's version focuses less on the ever-presence of the flying balloon and more on the keenly observant eyes of Simon and Song. Families interested in introducing their children to the delight of foreign films should start with the original and leave this one until their teenagers are true cineastes.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's artful depiction of life in France, puppetry, and photography/filmmaking.

  • The mother's regular smoking could be framed within the context of European culture versus the United States' increasing "no smoking" culture. What are the cultural differences and similarities between life in France and life in the United States?

  • How is the son's absent father depicted? How is this unconventional family portrayed?

  • What do you think the red balloon symbolizes in the film?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 4, 2008
DVD release date:October 21, 2008
Cast:Fang Song, Juliette Binoche, Simon Iteanu
Director:Hsiao-hsien Hou
Studio:IFC Entertainment
Genre:Drama
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Flight of the Red Balloon was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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