A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though an overarching theme is the artifice (or reality) of moviemaking and the crossover of Chiyoko's ever-heartsick characters with her real life, the film's actual message is about the power of love -- or, in Chiyoko's case, love withheld, a hopeless girlhood crush that consumes a lifetime (maybe longer).
Positive Role Models
In a switch from actress-diva characterizations, unspoiled Chiyoko claims no interest in movie stardom -- she just takes roles to pursue her mystery man. Though the plot romanticizes it, there's the hint she's allowed obsessive love to ruin her chance for a normal life. Another female character fits the jealous-aging-starlet stereotype. Genya is a stalwart, semi-comical defender and helper of Chiyoko in both reality and fantasy. Either way, he never wins the love game either. Sigh.
Violence & Scariness
Battlefield rifle fire (including giant monster-attack mayhem) and flaming arrows. Swordfights with dead bodies. Some bloodshed, mostly impressionistic. A dead body (mostly covered) of a feudal hari-kari suicide is shown. Earthquakes cause damage.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nothing objectionable, despite a love-centric plot.
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"Damned" in the cursed sense.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One (unsympathetic) character smokes a cigarette.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this Japanese animation is no simplistic Speed Racer adventure but an intricate, surreal plotline that blends the make-believe of filmmaking with the "real" life of an actress. Kids may be confused by the multiple levels, shifting time-periods, and the ambiguous, bittersweet ending (which is a tenderly metaphorical death from old age). There is studio-set violence -- war, ninja fighting -- that overlaps with the real deal, but never graphically. The heroine considers killing herself with a knife (in a role). Talk of another character dying under government torture.. Swordfights with dead bodies. Some bloodshed, mostly impressionistic. A dead body (mostly covered) of a feudal hari-kari suicide is shown. Earthquakes cause damage. Be prepared for Japanese language with subtitles, rather than English-dubbed editions. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It would be hard to imagine how to successfully realize the movie's dazzling premise outside of animation. There are three timelines, one spanning a thousand years (and extending into the space-travel future), the other Japan's last hundred years or so, and finally the arc of Chiyoko's own 20th-century life -- or reincarnations of several lives. Or re-enactments for the film-studio cameras. Or all of the above. Yes, it helps to have a knowledge of Japanese history, culture, and cinema (even a Godzilla lookalike cameos), but even without noticing the recurring lotus-flower or crane visuals, MILLENNIUM ACTRESS works beautifully as arty drama and a bittersweet, if rather rosy, picture of obsessive first love.
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.