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 creepy thriller focuses on four siblings in a horrible situation, virtually imprisoned by an abusive grandmother in the isolated attic of a huge mansion. There are a few fight scenes that may not seem very violent compared to the shootouts of they typical action film, but they seem more intense because the participants are family members, including young children and an elderly woman. The kids’ feelings of powerlessness and despair could be tough for younger viewers. The movie suggests, but only barely, the themes of incest that were a central element in the popular book upon which this is based. There’s no nudity or sex, but a few scenes show the teenage girl and boy in moments that seem to border on the inappropriate.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Life is nearly perfect for the Dollanger family until the father is killed in a car accident, leaving Corinne (Victoria Tennant) with no means to support herself or her four kids. Desperate for money, she makes a hard decision: return to her family estate, make amends with her estranged, and very wealthy parents, and hope to be reinstated into her dying father’s will. Soon after they arrived to a less-than-enthusiastic welcome, the children are shocked when their grandmother insists they be hidden away in an abandoned attic. Hinting at some long-hidden scandal, the grandmother says her sick husband cannot know they even exist -- ever -- and locks the door behind her, imprisoning the teenage Cathy (Kristy Swanson) and Chris and their much younger twin siblings. Long days in their confined quarters turn into weeks, and then months. And as their mother’s visits become more and more infrequent, their grandmother (Louise Fletcher) becomes more and more abusive and tyrannical.
Is it any good?
Based on a popular pulp novel, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC is a strange bird, despite the story's iconic status. The acting is stiff, the dialog stilted and production values are low. Fans of author V.C. Andrews’ book of the same name may protest. It keeps much of the key details, but eliminates completely the themes that made the book a bestseller. In the book, the teenage Chris and Cathy, confined together for so long as their adolescent hormones surge, develop romantic feelings for each other. This is a novel about forbidden love -- which, of course, was immensely appealing, though disturbing, to readers. The film however, glosses over this, but heightens the cheesy fear factor. It's also a miserable watch: Nothing hopeful happens, really, and in the end, it's hard to maingine what the point really is.The movie comes across as simply about a dysfunctional woman who tortures her grandchildren and her daughter who loses her way. As flowers go, this one's pretty wilted.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of money. What do you think of the mother’s decision to trade her kids' freedom for a shot at a big inheritance? Why do people do bad things for money? Have you ever done something you're not proud of in the quest for money?
How is the abuse and violence seen in this film different from more violent shoot-em-up action movies? Does one make a deeper impact than the other?
How much license do you think a director can take when adapting a popular novel for the big screen? Do you think the director went too far in this film?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love to be scared
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch