A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Saw the Light is a biopic about country music legend Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston). The movie covers Williams' frequent drinking; he makes several attempts to quit (a painful detox scene is shown), but it doesn't take. There's also frequent cigarette smoking and a scene of a character on morphine. Williams is shown enjoying the company of many women, even when he's already married. There's an intimate scene of kissing and bedroom play with his wife, and another scene with a topless woman. Language is fairly strong, with multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "bitch." A brief bar fight is shown, as is arguing and a character with awful back pain. In one scene, a character uses a gun to shoot at targets. Like most music biopics, the movie is a warning against the pitfalls of fame and success; it's pretty routine, but it does feature a strong lead performance and great music.
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What's the story?
In the 1940s, singer-songwriter Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston) dreams of performing at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. He has the talent and the drive, but there are several problems. He's married, and his wife, Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen), wants to sing, too, but she doesn't have Hank's skills. She does want to control his career, however -- as does his mother (Cherry Jones). Plus, Hank drinks too much, suffers from chronic back pain, and can't seem to help sleeping around. And then there's the fact that Audrey has just had a baby. Hank finally gets his chance, but it leads to a whole new set of pitfalls, as well as success, touring, and exhaustion. When he meets Billie Jean (Maddie Hasson), he feels like he has a new lease on life, but how long can it last?
Is it any good?
This biopic about country legend Hank Williams is pretty much the same as any other biopic from the last 20 years, with a strong central performance, a surface-level story, and a series of cliches. Your appreciation of I SAW THE LIGHT will depend on, for you, how much the great music overrides the lengthy yet shallow depictions of alcohol abuse, financial arguments, creative control clashes, extramarital activities, life on the road, divorce, new love, and hospital stays/doctor visits.
Hiddleston, who's English but uses an Alabama accent here and does his own singing, is quite extraordinary, capturing Williams' soul. And Olsen has some strong scenes as Hank's first wife. But overall, even though Williams only lived to age 29, the movie covers too much material and generally skims the surface. Sill, the performances are electric and more or less worth the price of admission.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about biographical movies. How can viewers know what's true and/or what's been changed? Why might filmmakers decide to alter the facts? Does it matter? If it does, how could you find out the full story?
How does I Saw the Light portray drinking? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences? Why do you think Williams drank so much?
Is sex an issue here? Does Williams seem admirable or likable even though he has affairs? Why or why not?
Did you know who Hank Williams was before watching them ovie? What did you learn about him? Does he seem like a role model?
- In theaters: March 25, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: July 5, 2016
- Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones
- Director: Marc Abraham
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some language and brief sexuality/nudity
- Last updated: November 25, 2019
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