From Time to Time



Heartfelt family drama with ghosts and scary fire scene.
  • Review Date: February 14, 2013
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A warm and tender-hearted grandmother delivers thoughtful messages to her 13-year-old grandson throughout. Families should stand together; don't quarrel with your children, it's never worth it. At the end of life, death is not the important thing, what matters most is whether or not you're loved. The film also comments upon the evils of slavery, as well as snobbery.

Positive role models

A young boy matures; he becomes responsible, heroic, and compassionate as the story progresses. Most of the adults around him, particularly  his grandmother, offer exemplary parenting skills: they're understanding, fair, and dependable. In a parallel story set in the early 1800s, a gentleman is disturbed about slavery and takes an active role in fighting it. The sole black character, a little boy, is resourceful, brave and loyal.


Some eerie moments when ghosts first are heard and then are revealed. A mean teen boy jeopardizes a young child, forcing him into a chimney, then lighting the fireplace below. In the climactic scenes, a fire consumes much of the great house, endangering more than 20 people, including several children. It's an extended sequence with falling rafters, children trapped in burning rooms, and narrow escapes through tunnels and staircases.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that From Time to Time deals with the potential loss of a parent, as well as complex family relationships. Young Tolly Oldknowe's father is missing-in-action somewhere in Europe near the end of World War II and the boy's concern motivates his behavior throughout. Two stories, one set in 1944, the other in 1811 are intercut, interrelated, and take place in the same great house. Key to the stories are the presence of ghosts (somewhat eerily revealed, but ultimately not threatening) and Tolley's ability to see into the past, enter that past, and impact it. It's more suspenseful than scary, except for a lengthy sequence in which a fire threatens the people assembled in the Oldknowe house. A young black child is mistreated by some members of the white household, but championed by others. A dead rabbit, soon to be prepared and eaten, lies on a kitchen table during one scene. 

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What's the story?

World War II is in its last days. Tolly Oldknowe's British soldier dad is missing somewhere in Europe and, to keep Tolly safe, his mom sends him to stay with his grandmother in the family's grand house in the English countryside. There's been some estrangement, and, at first, Tolly is wary of his granny (Maggie Smith). As the two explore a relationship, Tolly encounters profound secrets about the old house, and finds himself witness to an extraordinary story about a blind girl, missing jewels, and a runaway slave that took place over 100 years earlier. Ghosts are his guides; his grandmother becomes his closest ally and friend.

Is it any good?


Written and directed by Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, FROM TIME TO TIME is a beautifully-made family saga with wonderful performances and two timeless stories that complement each other and deliver a rich view of two distinct periods in world history. Tolly learns to trust, to love freely, and to come to terms with good and evil, as well as with the brevity of some lives.

It's a film to be shared and enjoyed by families with older kids and teens.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what "timeless" means. Tolly's story takes place in 1944; Susan's story takes place in 1811. Remembering that, explain the word "timeless." What do you think kids today have in common with Tolly and Susan?

  • Though there are no battle scenes,¬†in what ways¬†does¬†this film¬†show what happens during wartime? How does World War II affect Tolly's family?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 25, 2009
DVD release date:March 20, 2012
Cast:Alex Etel, Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall
Director:Julian Fellowes
Studio:Ealing Studios
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Book characters, Friendship
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:mild thematic elements and peril

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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; OK 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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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 9 and 10 year old Written byH2Clark October 10, 2013

Engaging story, good family movie ghost story

Watched this with my 8 & 10 yo boys. The movie was great. Whole family was surprised at the first ghost scene. 8 yo lost interest by the end of the movie, but 10 yo and I were engaged through the whole show.
What other families should know
Great messages
Parent Written byJMNT August 31, 2014

Fun Movie for the family

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byMwikoffMarkwikoff March 23, 2013

Pleasantly Surprised!

My wife and I were looking for a movie for a family movie night for us and our 13 & 16 year old boys and this was actually quite good. Both the boys enjoyed it! Definitely would recommend.


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