Parents' Guide to

Madame Bovary

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Classic tale about unhappy wife has tragic themes.

Movie R 2015 118 minutes
Madame Bovary Poster Image

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The film's emotional encounters are built up better than the financial subplot, which leaves Emma and her husband neck-deep in debt. While this is the part of the story that leads to Emma's tragic end, the details and fiscal entanglements feel secondary to her romantic life, diluting their potency. Even at two hours, the film feels like things had to be cut out of the original story, with parts of the plot seemingly arising out of nowhere. That's the main reason Madame Bovary doesn't work very well: It simultaneously has too much (of Emma's caddish lovers) and not enough (of the usurious merchant who drives her into debt).

Emma Bovary begins married life full of enthusiasm and optimism, but she quickly realizes she's signed on for a life that isn't what she was expecting. We can see where this is leading -- a string of passionate extramarital encounters -- long before she realizes it herself; her excitement at finally finding romance is infectious and deeply felt ... as is her crushing despair when her lovers abandon her. In this period film set in a 19th-century French village, it's clear that, as a married woman, Emma has few options.

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