A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Although it's a sad story, there are important messages about material wealth having the power to corrupt. According to the story, money can lead to feeling trapped and limiting one's ability to empathize with others. True wealth, the story stresses, is that of generosity and love, as embodied by Joe.
Positive Role Models
Joe is kind, loving, and a selfless father figure to Pip. Many characters are mean, aloof, cruel, or manipulative, including Pip's sister, Miss Havisham, and even Estella at times. Pip struggles between accepting his tradesman past and wanting to erase it and pretend he's a gentleman. But in the end Pip is selfless and self-sacrificing toward those who care about him.
Violence & Scariness
Several characters die -- most are killed. A woman burns to death; a woman being choked stabs her attacker in self defense -- one lives and one dies. A scary-looking man flips a boy upside down and yells threats at him. Two men wrestle and beat each other until a police officer stops them. A much older sister is cruel to her little brother, hitting him with a cane, shoving him, and scrubbing him harshly. A man is sentenced to death in court.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A brief kiss is cut short by a woman who pulls away. Another young woman goes to kiss a guy who looks away and says he's not in love with her. There's also sexual tension/attraction, hand holding, dancing, and longing looks.
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Infrequent use of words like "damn" and "hell," plus occasional insults like "ungrateful," "stupid," "common," "cowardly," and other class-based comments.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Young men of leisure drink, smoke pipes and cigars/cigarettes at their dining club; one man's tragic alcohol abuse is brought up. Adults drink/toast at a meal.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Great Expectations is one of many adaptations of Charles Dickens' classic novel about money and love and how one can't buy you the other. There's some violence in the movie, as characters die or are cruel and harsh with each other, and the language includes mostly insults like "cowardly," "stupid," and "common." This isn't a feel-good story, so be prepared to discuss the themes with kids unfamiliar with Dickens' books. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
More tweens and teens should consider this satisfying adaptation as an introduction to Dickens beyond A Christmas Carol. Director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) takes his turn adapting one of English literature's most often retold tales of mystery, social climbing, and the ways money and desire can either enrich or corrupt the soul. Irvine, with his earnest face and strong arms is as believable as a blacksmith as he is a gentleman. He plays the coming-of-age Pip with an initial sweetness that makes the bitter, sad twists of the story that much more horrifying. Pip is so besotted with Estella (Grainger, lovely and icy just as Estella is meant to be played), he can't see how good and attentive a woman Biddy (Jessie Cave) is, or how the life of an honest tradesman should not be so easily dismissed.
Newell and screenwriter David Nicholls don't stick page for page to Dickens' story, and the script is tighter, more streamlined, and in some ways a relief (for film audiences) over the beloved original. Bonham Carter and Fiennes are fabulous as the perpetually bitter Miss Havisham and the tragic thief Magwitch, as are Hawkins and Flemyng as Pip's cruel sister and his surprisingly warm brother-in-law. Dickens may not paint love with a swoony, bantering brush like Jane Austen, but his themes are just as universal and substantial.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.