Girl with a Pearl Earring Movie Poster Image

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Older teens and adults will enjoy, but the book is better.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Child beaten. Tense confrontations.


Sexual references and situations.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking


Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has sexual references and situations and powerful erotic images.

What's the story?

Based on Tracy Chevalier's novel about the girl wearing a pearl earring in a portrait by artist Johannes Vermeer, this film tells the story of Griet (Scarlett Johansson). The young girl is hired as a maid to the chaotic Vermeer household, where everything depends on the productivity of an artist who works very slowly and the whims of a patron who may be more interested in the model than the paintings. Griet wears the nun-like head covering of the era that hides her hair. She does what she is told and keeps to herself. But she notices things, like that she should not wash the windows in Vermeer's studio because it will change the look of the light he is trying to capture. Vermeer (Colin Firth), not a person of words either, responds to the way she responds to the art. He asks her to help him mix his paints and shows her some of his painting techniques. His patron, Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), is drawn to Griet. And since his interest is vital to the survival of the Vermeer family, Vermeer's steely mother-in-law (Judy Parfitt) will do anything she can to keep him happy.

Is it any good?


The gorgeously filmed GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING is a commentary on artistic imperatives, the creative process, and the way we look at things. And power, money, and sex. The movie superbly captures the shadows and lights of Vermeer's Delft. Johannson's face is as complex and haunting as the portrait of the anonymous girl she portrays. She is a marvel of delicate expression. When at last she removes her headdress and we see her hair it is almost unbearably intimate and erotic.

But the movie is less successful at addressing some of the issues it raises about the other members of the household, including the clashes of art and commerce, sex and power, master and servant, parent and child. Griet's resolution of her situation is clumsily handled, almost an afterthought. Perhaps the ultimate clash is between book and movie. Vermeer himself would understand the way that the images overpower the ideas. At the end, after being teased and seduced, we are at last allowed to gaze on the famous portrait itself, still more fascinating and more complete than any attempt to build upon it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Griet makes the choices she does and how in real life the painting made centuries earlier inspired the imagination of a writer to come up with this story.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 12, 2003
DVD/Streaming release date:May 4, 2004
Cast:Colin Firth, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson
Director:Peter Webber
Run time:99 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some sexual content

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byBecky Chandler November 17, 2013

Very Artistic

Based on the book by Tracy Chevalier, the Girl With a Pearl Earring is a good adaption. Starring famous actors, Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson, the performance is stunning. The chemistry and passion between Firth and Johansson is magical and stays strong throughout the duration of the film. It is also a very convincing perspective of how servants were treated (which was quite badly) many years ago. You really sympathise with Griet, the protagonist. The theme of the film is art and you watch, bewitched, as Vermeer seduces Griet. Griet is a character that has so much innocence and naivety. This film was given a 12A rating and I feel it deserves it as it can be sensual at times but there is absolutely NO graphic sex scenes. (There is one sex scene but it is not at all graphic and you just hear quiet panting - only the characters faces are shown. In fact it is so mild you probably wouldn't even think it was a sex scene). There is one scene where a girl gets slapped and an intense scene between Pieter Van Ruijven and Griet. It is implied that he is going to attack her but he is stopped. I think another reason it was rated 12A is because the film can be quite hard to grasp and the ending was a little puzzling. So if any parents are wondering whether to let there children watch this then I would probably say they should providing they are prepared for some questions relating to the time it was set, the ending and Griet and Vermeer's relationship. Like I said the film is NOT graphic it just has a lust undercurrent which I think makes the film so good.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Parent of a 12 year old Written bycrankylibrarian January 3, 2014

Why bother?

Snore. Great book, but I can't see many teens being captivated by this overly reverent adaptation, unless they want to gape at Scarlett Johansson. Watching Vermeer's paint dry would be more entertaining.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Adult Written bynarniafan57 December 10, 2010

depending on parents i say older teens and adults

this movie was very good its based off novel its about a maid named griet who is chosen to be painted by her master this is based Johannes Vermeer and his paintings pros music very beautiful and peaceful acting was wonderful especially the narnia girl anna popplewell even though she only has a smal girl costumes were amazing scenery was unforgettable the paintings were realistic cons a violent pig slaughter scene when griet picks up meat very graphic for PG13 mature scene very brief though one use on of P*** terrible ending
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models