Parents' Guide to

Master Harold...and the Boys

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Play-based movie examines racism's toxic effects.

Movie PG-13 2010 87 minutes
Master Harold...and the Boys Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 1 parent review

age 13+

Powerful play - great film - needed for our time.

This powerful play can start brave conversations about how to show love to people when they are being unlovable, racist, and cruel. The character of Sam is a black father figure to Hally. Young Hally's alcoholic father has taught him to use his white authority to treat people unfairly in the time of Apartheid in South Africa. Reading the play, admittedly, gives so much more; however, the movie also has benefits of showing the ignominies faced by millions. What a great work to broach discussion on race issues and parents w/ alcoholism. Sam is repeatedly abused and repeatedly shows Christlike love and forgiveness to Hally.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (2 ):

This was a groundbreaking play in 1982 about the way people stoop to institutionalized injustice when they can't defend their bad behavior in any other way. But Master Harold...and the Boys suffers from the play-to-film transition, leaving all but the end feeling stilted. The play was set entirely in the Port Elizabeth tea room, designed to capitalize on the willing suspension of disbelief theater-goers eagerly engage in. As written for the screen by Nicky Rebelo and staged by director Lonny Price, the movie barely overcomes the theatrical limitations to expand into a fuller, more movie-like recreation of a real-ish universe.

Nevertheless, Ving Rhames beautifully portrays the compassionate and philosophical Sam, and Patrick Mofokeng embodies the stunted potential of so many good black men kept down in enforced poverty, ignorance, and unfairness. Fugard's final moments of eloquent protest, as uttered by Sam, demonstrate that in the act of demeaning others, we demean ourselves more.

Movie Details

Inclusion information powered by

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate