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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A teacher has an affair with her 15-year-old student; an older teacher manipulates the younger teacher -- both betray each another and those around them; both are also self-deluding, though one comes to understand herself more deeply.
Violence & Scariness
Fighting between two male students; Steven's mother slaps Sheba; hectic scene with press "thronging" Sheba outside her home (she cries, the camerawork is frantic); Barbara and Sheba fight (slapping, falling into furniture, crying).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sheba and Steven appear partly unclothed (most images are discreet or dark, but plain about their sexual acts) in a couple of scenes; some cleavage shots; some kissing; sexual slang, allusions, and references ("wank mags," "porno," "c--t," "t-ts," "dick," "f--k"). A major storyline is one female character's obssessive crush on another.
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At least 15 uses of "f--k," as well as other language, like "s--t," "hell," "bollocks," "bastard," and sexual slang (including "dick," "t--s," and "c--t"); some name-calling ("fatty," granny," "pig," "tart"), as well as some Britishisms ("wank," "arse," "sod-all").
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Products & Purchases
Nokia cell phone.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink (wine and beer) on multiple occasions, sometimes to drunkenness; Barbara smokes cigarettes repeatedly; Steven smokes a few times; a girl (Sheba's stepdaughter) smokes once; reference to "crack cocaine" background characters smoke and drink in bars.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this adult-targeted drama (which probably won't have much appeal for teens anyway) features mature themes and some sexual imagery. Specifically, a female teacher, Sheba, has sex with her 15-year-old male student, and the footage is fairly explicit (heavy breathing and rolling on ground; the teacher in her bra, kneeling and touching the boy's torso). The movie's other predominant sexual theme concerns a fellow female teacher's crush on Sheba, which inspires amorous dreams and comments in her diary, as well as some social machinations (she betrays a friend, spreads rumors, and judges her peers). Boys fight at school; the teachers fight, too (slapping and pushing). Characters drink beer, wine, and liquor (in a flashback, Sheba drinks beer with the student) and smoke cigarettes. Language includes some 15 uses of "f--k," plus "s--t" and "arse," in addition to some name-calling ("fatty," "pig," "tart," etc.). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The film's great trick is that no matter how badly Barbara behaves -- and she does connive with some venom -- she remains "sympathetic" in the sense that she's utterly compelling. (This is, of course, primarily a function of Dench's strong performance.) She's also strangely endearing and quite blind to herself. The film's finale is both harsh and broadly melodramatic, and so fits Barbara's idea of herself -- deflated perhaps, but never defeated.
As the school year starts, Barbara glowers from a second-floor window, deeming the yard full of students to be "the local pubescent proles, the future lumbers and shop assistants and doubtless the odd terrorist too." Accompanied by Philip Glass' score, Dench is delightfully forbidding here, her demeanor unchanged as the camera picks out Sheba bicycling among the uniformed students, with little sign of the complications that are about to ensue. Sheba is so self-absorbed that she doesn't notice Barbara's needs until the older woman demands not only that Sheba give up the boy, but also, eventually, her family. Barbara's own observations are both prickly and entertaining; they reveal her own inclinations even when she thinks she's maintaining her distance.
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Our Editors Recommend
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