Girl with a Pearl Earring

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Girl with a Pearl Earring Movie Poster Image
Older teens and adults will enjoy, but the book is better.
  • PG-13
  • 2003
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Child beaten. Tense confrontations.


Sexual references and situations.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking


What parents need to know

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

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9 and 11-year-old Written bymarkegiani August 5, 2020
Parent 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... Continue reading
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 performa... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byalessandralovesbooks October 2, 2010

Great movie!

I really liked this movie. I watched it because I had just read the book and loved the book so much!! This movie didn't quite meet my expectations, but is... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

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.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate