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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gorillas in the Mist is a 1988 movie based on the life and work of Dian Fossey, who saved mountain gorillas from extinction in the '70s and '80s. Sensitive animal lovers of all ages should know that there's lots of scariness and tension from animals and people in peril: a baby gorilla separated from its mother; the body of a gorilla with its head and hands cut off; a baby deer in pain and distress after falling in a pit trap; a brief glimpse of a severed gorilla hand; and poachers hunting, spearing, and hacking at gorillas. Blood and bloodstained clothes are shown briefly, including a large pool under a bloody hand, but no other gore. Strong language includes "s--t," "goddamn," "ass," and one "f--king." Sexual content includes several kisses, a couple nude under bubbles in a tub, and a couple in bed apparently naked, but no sensitive parts are shown. Fossey smokes and years later has a persistent cough. Adults drink scotch and beer a few times. Fossey's a good role model for women in science, but some of her tactics are controversial, and her life was pretty tragic. It's a good chance to talk about whether the sacrifices she made were worth it, the value of preserving habitat and species like mountain gorillas, and lots more. Teens can be encouraged to find out about the mountain gorilla population, and the part of Africa where they live today.
What's the story?
In the late 1960s, Dian Fossey (Sigourney Weaver) convinced the famous anthropologist Louis Leakey to let her count the population of GORILLAS IN THE MIST, in the mountains of eastern-central Africa. Helped by Sembagare, a local tracker she hired and who remained with her until the end, Fossey eventually found several groups to study. Able to get closer to the gorillas than anyone ever had, Fossey documented many previously unknown behaviors. Fossey soon became alarmed when her studies showed a rapid decline in the gorilla population, and dedicated the rest of her life to fighting against poaching, capturing for zoos, and loss of habitat due to tourism. When photographer Bob Campbell (Bryan Brown) arrived at her camp, the two fell in love, but either staying together or breaking up would require tremendous sacrifice for both of them. Will history say the sacrifices were worthwhile?
Is it any good?
Gripping, haunting, tragic, but ending on a hopeful note, this movie based on Dian Fossey's life and work will put sensitive animal lovers through an emotional wringer. Gorillas in the Mist boasts wonderful performances, beautiful photography, and a compelling drama that keeps the viewer riveted. The violence, animals in peril, and tragic deaths of important people and beloved animals make it best for mature teens and up.
As Fossey's obsession with the gorillas deepens to near madness, the movie loses some momentum and some of the realism. But it's an incredibly compelling story, and a worthwhile way to start important conversations about continuing conservation efforts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Gorillas in the Mist. Is there a good reason for it? Is it too much? Why?
Why should we care whether mountain gorillas become extinct or not? How many mountain gorillas are there in the world today? How can you find out more about their numbers and their habitat?
What traits does Dian Fossey have that you admire? Do you agree with her tactics, or did she go too far? Why?
- In theaters: October 7, 1988
- On DVD or streaming: January 1, 2017
- Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Bryan Brown, John Omirah Miluwi
- Director: Michael Apted
- Studios: Universal Studios, Warner Bros., The Guber-Peters Company
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Adventures, History, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 129 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- Awards/Honors: Golden Globe
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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.