Martin Eden

Movie review by
Stefan Pape, Common Sense Media
Martin Eden Movie Poster Image
Historical romantic drama explores class structure in Italy.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 129 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Aspirations, hard work, and defying expectations are all strong themes. The film also thrives in the notion that money doesn't bring you happiness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Martin Eden is a man who defies societal boundaries and aspires to move away from his humble, working-class beginnings to make a name for himself. He is a compassionate and kind person at his core, but he does make mistakes along the way. His self-education shows too that diligence and commitment can pay-off. Some of the characters -- both working class and bourgeois -- are stereotypes in their depiction. But this is intentional as it serves to demonstrate how people are defined by their class.


There are a handful of physical fights -- including punches being thrown. Security guard manhandles a young child. Scuffle between a character and a journalist. A fight results in a chair being thrown and a character being punched in the face. Two characters rob their ex-employer for money they are owed. Character puts their hands around an old person's neck. There is a fight at a dinner table between a parent and child. A husband threatens to hit his wife -- in the following scene the wife is seen with a black eye.


A couple are seen briefly having sex -- no nudity. Reference to a "handjob." Kissing, flirting, and romance.


Swearing is frequently used both casually and in agressive situations. Words include "f--k," "motherf--ker," "s--t," and "handjob."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke consistently throughout. One character claims they need tobacco when they're feeling stressed. Characters drink alcohol -- usually wine -- with dinner, at bars, and at social functions. A character is accosted on the street by a drunk. A fight breaks out at a family dinner, which leads to domestic violence -- the perpetrator is drunk at the time.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Martin Eden is a fascinating Italian historical romantic drama (with English subtitles) about class mobility, and contains frequent swearing and some mild violence. Martin Eden (Luca Marinelli) is determined to elevate himself from his working class background but in doing so he betrays some of his values. The film plays on social stereotypes, but in an obvious and deliberate way, so as to demonstrate how restrictive social class can be, and how people are judged and treated purely based on their background. There is some violence -- including punches being thrown and someone placing their hands around another's neck. But the scenes themselves are short-lived. A wife is seen with a black eye after her husband had threatened her during a drunken rage. Caharacters frequently smoke and there is some drinking. One brief sex scene takes place, but it's non-graphic with the characters remaining clothed. "F--k," "motherf---er," and "s--t" are frequently used, and there is reference to a "handjob." The movie is loosely based on Jack London's 1909 novel of the same name but with the action taking place in Naples, Italy as oppossed to the book's Californian setting.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRoberto67 December 8, 2020

A romantic and challenging adaptation of London's novel

Touching movie where Marinelli leading role delivers a nice first half that all kids may enjoy. The second part is more complex, just keep an eye on some strong... Continue reading

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What's the story?

MARTIN EDEN tells the story of a working class man (Luca Marinelli) who is invited into the home of a cultured and affluent family having saved their young son from a beating. There he falls in love with the boy's older sister Elena (Jessica Cressy) as he dreams of leaving behind his modest childhood, aspiring to become a prominent member of the literary elite.

Is it any good?

This is a fantastic piece of modern cinema, masterfully crafted by director Pietro Marcello. This timeless tale of a man on an unwavering pursuit of self-education to transcend his humble roots and enter into the bourgeoisie, offers a fascinating look into class culture. Martin Eden works well because of its central protagonist, who realizes as he rises, that those he aspired to be are actually as flawed as anybody else. It's a nuanced character and brought to life emphatically by the brilliant Marinelli, in one of the stand-out performances of the year.

The look of the film must be commended too. By taking Jack London's 1909 story, and resetting it in 20th century Naples, Marcello is able to showcase the beauty of his native Italy while also capturing a bygone age. Clearly influenced by Italian New Wave cinema, Martin Eden deserves to sit amongst the greats that inspired it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the concept of class as depicted in Martin Eden. Why do you think Martin wants to become a member of the upper class? What are the benefits? Are there any downsides? How easy do you think it is to change class today? Is it something people should aspire to do?

  • How does Martin try to improve himself? Would you describe him as a positive role model? What character strengths does he demonstrate?

  • Talk about the language used in the movie. Does it seem necessary or excessive? What does it contribute to the movie? Did the subtitles make a difference? If so, how?

  • What other movies have you watched that were in a different language? What have been your favorites?

  • The movie suggests wealth and success doesn't automatically equate into happiness. Do you agree with this idea?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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