A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there is some mild swearing ("hell," "damn," "ass") and a few minor sexual references (Elizabeth's brother comments on her undeveloped chest and the town's mayor has an affair with a prominent woman). Hira Mata smokes a pipe and Elizabeth's brother Stuart and his friends drink alcohol (Stuart is promptly punished). Stuart constantly displays bad behavior, from smashing a window and making disparaging remarks about the Maoris to attempting to burn down a house, but the movie makes it clear that his actions are not acceptable. The movie very directly attacks racist attitudes and promotes embracing and celebrating other cultures. Elizabeth is a positive, strong role model.
What's the story?
HER MAJESTY is set in 1953 New Zealand, in the small hamlet of Middleton. In this provincial town, 13-year-old Elizabeth Wakefield (Sally Andrews), an ordinary girl with a runaway imagination and a fascination with Queen Elizabeth II, lives with her parents and surly older brother Stuart (Craig Elliott). Elizabeth daydreams about meeting the beautiful young queen, and upon hearing that the Monarch is planning a tour of New Zealand, she begins a intensive letter-writing campaign, begging the Queen to visit her sleepy village. Meanwhile, she befriends an old Maori woman named Hira Mata (Vicky Haughton), who begins to share stories of her tribe's history, and Elizabeth develops a deep respect for the Maori traditions and culture. As she learns more about how the English settlers treated the indigenous Maori people and how they murdered Hira's father, Elizabeth comes to understand why Hira doesn't share her enthusiasm for meeting the Queen. When it's announced that the Queen will be visiting Middleton, the townspeople are thrilled, but Elizabeth is ultimately forced to choose between her friendship with Hira and the opportunity to meet the Queen.
Is it any good?
Her Majesty is a gentle cross-cultural tale from New Zealand that's guaranteed to make you smile. It has an old-fashioned feel to it; its lack of inappropriate violence and sex combined with its universal themes, visual beauty, and charming story of acceptance and friendship make it the kind of movie you can feel comfortable sharing with the whole family, from tweens to grandparents. Sure, it can be a bit corny at times, but ultimately it's an inspiring and entertaining film worth sharing with the ones you love. Rest assured that things end happily-ever-after -- somehow all the wrongs are righted, all the loose ends are tied up, and Elizabeth's miserable older brother gets his comeuppance.
Still, the movie does not shy away from some un-fairy-tale-like aspects such as racism, intolerance, and culture clashes. Although the message about understanding differences and respecting other cultures can be heavy-handed at times, these topics are certainly worthwhile ones to discuss with your kids. Many older children will be able to point out parallels between the Maori-European tensions and the ones here at home between various cultures. And even younger kids will be able to talk about what the townspeople learned from the Queen's visit and what Elizabeth and Hira learned from each other.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about and look into the history of New Zealand -- many kids will not understand why the New Zealanders are so excited to have the Queen of England visit or the tense relationship between the Maoris and the European-descended New Zealanders. They could discuss the assumptions Elizabeth and Hira initially have about each other and how they got past these stereotypes. What did Elizabeth and Hira learn from each other? How does Elizabeth's new worldview make her a better person?
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