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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Howards End is a 1992 romantic drama based on the novel by E.M. Forster. There's talk of sexual and extramarital affairs and liaisons, including mention of a past affair between a 16-year-old girl and a married and much older man. Upon seeing this older man at a social event 10 years later, the woman proceeds to get extremely drunk and belligerent, clearly upset by what happened. There's some violence, including a man being killed after he's punched and then struck with the dull side of a sword before falling into a large bookcase that falls on top of him. Pipe, cigar, and cigarette smoking are shown. Overall, the movie's slower pace and adult themes make this best for teens and adults, who might use it as a starting point to discuss how the movie conveys relations between the sexes and economic classes during Edwardian England, and what has and hasn't changed since that time.
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What's the story?
Adapted from E.M. Forster's novel, HOWARDS END tells the story of Margaret Schlegel (Emma Thompson) and her sister, Helen (Helena Bonham Carter), intellectual, liberal women living in 1910 England. When the rich Wilcoxes move next door, a friendship develops between Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret. When Mrs. Wilcox dies, she leaves her home, Howards End, to Margaret. But the Wilcox family disregards her request. Time passes, and Mr. Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins) and Margaret become engaged. This upsets Helen, since Wilcox offered disastrous job advice to her poor friend, Leonard Bast. Margaret's efforts to coax Wilcox into helping Leonard end abruptly when it's revealed that Leonard's low-class wife and Wilcox were once lovers. Helen's interest in the married Leonard turns romantic and she flees, pregnant with his child. Wilcox refuses to support Helen, despite his own indiscreet past. This hypocrisy leads to a confrontation, which ultimately brings Howards End back into Margaret's hands, just as Mrs. Wilcox willed it.
Is it any good?
In this intricate tale of love, hope, and cruelty, three families from different backgrounds find themselves intertwined in a complicated plot that will grip older kids and parents alike. If the story seems a bit complex, rest assured that the two-and-a-half-hour running time offers plenty of opportunity for confused teens to catch up. However, some of this material will be difficult for them to grasp. Discussions about classical music or pacifist ideology may elude all but the most mature viewers. And the delicate way that relationships develop, particularly that of Margaret and Mr. Wilcox, is perhaps too understated for kids to pick up on.
Still, the impeccable acting alone is enough reason to stay glued to the screen. Emma Thompson won a well-deserved Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret, and Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, and Helena Bonham Carter are equally convincing and entertaining to watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the class issues raised in the plot. How does our society compare to the one featured here? Do we have social classes in America?
What would be the challenges in adapting a classic novel such as Howards End into a film?
Besides wealth inequity between the rich and poor, how does the movie address topics such as equality between the sexes, and the difference between being virtuous and merely appearing to be virtuous?
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