A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that even though this drama stars Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson, it's a mature film for mature audiences. It deals with sexual exploration and suppressed homosexual behavior in a restrictive society, and scenes depict intercourse, homosexual awakening, full nudity, bare breasts, and masturbation. There's also strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), references to bodily functions, and sexual slurs directed at homosexuals. Several violent scenes show death by firing squad, the beating of a gay man, authentic wartime footage with dead bodies, and a graphic, close-up shot of an eye being sliced.
What's the story?
In 1922, a trio of young artistic geniuses -- painter Salvador Dali, poet/playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, and filmmaker Luis Bunuel -- converges at a Spanish university. It's a time of pre-Civil War political, social, and sexual upheaval. Revolutionary poet Lorca (Javier Beltran) and eccentric painter Dali (Twilight's Robert Pattinson) are drawn together by their extraordinary talent, sensitivity, and growing mutual physical attraction. They're true soul mates, but they live in a society in which homosexuality isn't acceptable. Amid the turbulent social and policial climate, their struggles with each other and with their own desires lead them to make choices that profoundly affect their fate.
Is it any good?
The filmmakers focus on character and mood to tell this fascinating story, with the young stars ably tackling difficult roles. Dali was a flamboyant narcissist, an over-the-top performance artist as well as painter. Pattinson is courageous in his commitment to bringing balance to his portrayal. Beltran, in his first film role, finds Lorca's tender fragility -- as well as his intellectual brilliance and strength. The only questions may be how much of the romance between Dali and Lorca is fact and how much can be attributed to the source: Dali's conflicted memories as an old man.
Though it's set in the early 20th century, the complex issues and emotional conflicts in LITTLE ASHES -- the individual pitted against a totalitarian state, the fight for acceptance of sexual preference, and the uncompromising artist versus the opportunist -- are as relevant today as they were then. And although it's clear that budget was a factor here -- old footage and newsreel clips make do for battle scenes and big production demands -- some of the love scenes are shot with heartbreaking beauty and texture.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's messages. Is it making specific statements about art and sexuality? What techniques do the filmmakers use to emphasize the sensuality of the story? How does Robert Pattinson's role in this movie compare to his better-known role in Twilight? Families can also discuss how the politics of 1920s Spain affected Dali and Lorca's lives. Why was the government so afraid of Lorca? What factors made Dali reject him? Can you think of incidents in today's world in which artists are willing to speak out?
- In theaters: May 8, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: January 26, 2010
- Cast: Javier Beltran, Matthew McNulty, Robert Pattinson
- Director: Paul Morrison
- Studio: Regent Releasing
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, language and a brief disturbing image
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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