Fascinating, mature drama about famed Chilean poet.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Neruda is a dramatic Spanish-language biopic about Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco), who went into hiding after years of being a Communist. Sexual content is the big issue here: The main character is shown cavorting, naked, with three naked women. Topless women are shown, and there's also brief full-frontal nudity (both male and female). Other scenes show more sexual situations, and characters talk about things like prostitutes and sexually transmitted diseases. Strong language (subtitled in English) includes one or two uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," and more. A character is hit with a blunt object and bleeds a lot; another character shoots guns for target practice. There's fairly frequent drinking, but only one scene of clear drunkenness. Characters also smoke, and opium is mentioned. Coming from the director of Jackie, this is very unusual, well-made, and thoughtful drama.
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What's the Story?
In NERUDA, the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) lives the high life as a Communist, attending parties and sweeping women off their feet. But in 1948, after a shift in political power, Neruda finds that he's no longer protected -- in fact, he's hunted. So he, along with his faithful wife, Delia del Carril (Mercedes Moran), goes into hiding. Policeman Oscar Peluchoneau (Gael Garcia Bernal), the son of a prostitute and possibly a famous police chief, pursues Neruda with unrelenting vigor. Locked into his new, simplistic lifestyle, Neruda finds pleasure in taunting the policeman, leaving him detective novels with notes inside. Eventually, Peluchoneau gets close to the poet in a showdown in the snow. But who's really in charge of this chase?
Is It Any Good?
Chilean director Pablo Larrain's biopic twists the formula around and explores surprisingly intimate and universal themes, while still guiding expert performances. (He accomplishes similar feats in Jackie.) Neruda features impressive camerawork: It's nimble and swirling, maneuvering around rooms and tense situations without blinking. It also occasionally forays into what seems like un-reality, such as obviously fake backgrounds while characters ride in cars.
Like a great essay, the movie seems to be about the idea of narrative, storytelling, words, and poetry. (Politics are also part of the mix, and it may help for viewers to know something about Chilean history.) Bernal's character is determined not to be a "secondary character" in this story, and other exchanges analyze the effects that the characters have on one another. It's wonderfully complex, but also wonderfully alive and playful. But the movie doesn't skimp on character either, and Gnecco gives a towering performance as Neruda, with Bernal and Moran matching him.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the depiction of sex in Neruda. Does it seem respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Did you know who Pablo Neruda was before watching this movie? Did it inspire you to learn more about him -- or read his writing?
How does this movie compare to other biopics you've seen? How accurate do you think it is? Why might filmmakers sometimes choose to alter the facts in movies based on true stories?
What does it mean to be a Communist? Why do you think it might lead to someone being hunted and/or arrested?
- In theaters: December 16, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: June 13, 2017
- Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Mercedes Moran, Luis Gnecco
- Director: Pablo Larrain
- Studio: The Orchard
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexuality/nudity and some language
- Last updated: March 23, 2023
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