A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Journey's End is a WWI-set drama that's based on a 1928 play by R.C. Sherriff. Based more on human concerns than big battle scenes, it's powerfully affecting and a fine examination of both the allures and miseries of war. Expect to see guns and shooting, death, dead bodies, and some bloody wounds, as well as shouting and threatening. A man briefly tries to forcibly kiss a waitress, but he's stopped. There's a brief discussion of a man "picking up two little tarts," and a (possibly nude?) pinup poster hangs on a background wall. Language includes several uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "damn," "ass," and "hell." One character drinks heavily and frequently and gets falling-down drunk. There's other social drinking, too, as well as era-accurate smoking. Asa Butterfield, Sam Claflin, and Paul Bettany co-star.
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What's the story?
In JOURNEY'S END, World War I is under way, and fresh-faced young Raleigh (Asa Butterfield) has requested to be stationed with his old school head-boy, Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin). Unfortunately, this means that Raleigh is to be deployed for a rotation of six days on the front lines, in the trenches just opposite a nest of German troops. Stanhope drinks heavily, quickly consuming the short supply of whiskey, but his stature in Raleigh's eyes fails to diminish. Rumors of an imminent attack are coming, and the men, led by the pipe-smoking Lt. Osborne (Paul Bettany), wait stoically. Other soldiers include dark-humored cook Mason (Toby Jones) and streetwise teddy bear Trotter (Stephen Graham), who loves to eat. Then their commanding officers order a suicide mission to capture a German; even if the men survive, a major attack may be imminent.
Is it any good?
This drama about the First World War is quietly moving as it conveys the horrors of war without heaviness, focusing on humanity and relying little on battle scenes. R.C. Sherriff's source play was first performed onstage with Laurence Olivier in 1928 and was previously adapted into a movie in 1930, marking the directorial debut of James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein). It's tried-and-true stuff, and it still works. Director Saul Dibb (The Duchess) stages it with plenty of mud and gloom -- and even wobbly hand-held cameras -- and yet it has enough patience and care that it works beautifully.
Potent little moments, like attempting to clear mud from a whistle, punctuate the story. The cast is especially excellent, starting with Bettany, whose avuncular presence (the men call him "uncle") is downright calming; right before the mission, he coaxes Raleigh to think about other things (hot cocoa and a Lewis Carroll poem). Butterfield is appealingly naïve, and Jones makes a grimly funny cook, providing a commentary on the dishes he manages to put together. Even Claflin -- who usually seems to be cast more for his looks than his presence -- is fine here. Together, the characters manage to discuss things more immediate and personal than war, and, by extension, tell everything there is to say.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Journey's End's violence. How much is shown, and how effective is it? Is it more or less violent than other war movies?
Why do you think war might be exciting to young Raleigh? How does his opinion change over the course of the story?
How is drinking portrayed? Is Stanhope forgiven for his drinking because of the stress of war? What happens to him -- or what might happen to him?
How does the movie show smoking? Why was smoking more prevalent during those times? Does the movie make it look glamorous?
What did you learn about the First World War from this movie? Did it inspire you to learn more?
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