Out of Africa

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Out of Africa Movie Poster Image
Enthralling epic about 1900s Africa tackles mature subjects.
  • PG
  • 1986
  • 160 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

An imperialist theme permeates the movie, as befits its plot. This is Kenya in the early 1900s, when Europeans descended on the continent. Locals are treated like slaves, though one man makes it clear he doesn’t believe in this sense of entitlement. Women are seen as second-class citizens; for instance, one is given the cold shoulder when she enters a café/bar that forbids women entry. But she defies expectations and conventions, and evolved into a person who can stand on her own, through fear, change, and heartbreak.

Positive role models & representations

Baroness Blixen stares many challenges in their face, and lives to tell the tale. After a steep learning curve, she learns to stand on her own, and ends up with a man who respects her but whom she learns she has to accept on his terms, too. Though she’s open-minded, Blixen and others are somewhat hobbled by the realities of the time period. She and a friend are a little shocked, for instance, by the romance that develops between a white man and a Somali woman.

Violence

Characters tote rifles, as appropriate for the time and the locale. They use them mostly for hunting. A woman shoots a bird and it’s shown getting hit and falling from the sky. Animals are flogged. Lions feast on cattle. A person slaps another. Hunters stalk lions with guns as one feasts on the carcass of a deer; they both hit one apiece.

Sex

A woman talks about having lovers; at one point, she’s involved with two brothers. A new husband takes the arrangement a little too lightly, flirting with a woman at his wedding. The couple is shown snuggling under a blanket, ostensibly naked though only their bare shoulders hint at what has transpired. Later, she catches a sexually transmitted disease, syphilis, from him after he is unfaithful. After being cured, she takes up with another man, with whom she’s very affectionate. (We see them kiss but not much else).

Language
Consumerism

In the beginning, one character appears very attached to her belongings; she name-drops the brand, Limoges.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Characters imbibe whiskey and wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this engrossing period drama based on the biography of Danish baroness and her life in 1900s Africa offers lots of historical interest and sweeping romance, but tweens and younger may have trouble keeping interested through this long film. There’s no swearing and nudity, though the film certainly treads on mature subjects. There’s a marriage of convenience, and one character catches syphilis from her philandering husband, which renders her infertile but doesn’t destroy her. Some scenes depict animals being whipped; discussions about war hover over a section of the film; and there are a number of deaths to illness and accidents.

User Reviews

Parent of a 12 year old Written byerica leverson June 10, 2010

tweens depends on maturity

love it its a good family movie to sit and watch together
Adult Written bytommysportsgirl April 9, 2008
A very magical movie!
Teen, 15 years old Written bybananalover March 6, 2011

epic drama is very good

this movie is so good but very long
Teen, 14 years old Written byTotally500 September 4, 2010

A 5 Star film

A fantasic film that you and your child will enjoy.You will laugh cry and explore the sights and sounds of whats to offer

What's the story?

This epic drama charts the journey of an affluent, worldly-but-somewhat-naive young woman, Karen “Isak” Dinesen (Meryl Streep), from her marriage to the aristocratic Baron Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer), a friend and sometime-lover who commits to her mainly for money, to her evolution as an strong plantation owner, avid storyteller, and survivor, set against 1900s colonial Kenya. Her marital arrangement leaves her feeling abandoned and unappreciated; she’d hoped to at least develop a deep friendship -- even love -- with her often-absent and unfaithful husband, but it doesn’t appear to be. But she finds solace in Denys Finch-Hatton (Robert Redford), an adventurer who teaches her much about independence, love, and Africa, and, in the end, remembering.

Is it any good?

OUT OF AFRICA is Meryl Streep at her iconic best, armed with a flawless accent and a deep understanding of her character. Her Karen Blixen follows a formidable, and believable, arc, one accompanied by such impressive companions as Redford, so comfortable in his gallant and handsome skin here, and Brandauer. The story is sprawling and compelling and so is Karen's metamorphosis: how she grows as a person; how she can’t make an uninterested husband love her; how she falls for a fiercely independent hunter who appreciates her but doesn’t want to be caged. (There’s one scene where he lovingly washes her hair and quotes poetry -- who can resist?)

John Barry’s compositions for the soundtrack heighten the film’s transporting quality; it places you in an altogether different, and romantic, time and place. Under the gentle hands of director Sydney Pollack, the landscape becomes a character, too. It enthralls the audience, the same way it once enthralled the baroness herself. As does the movie, which reaped handfuls of Academy Awards.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the baroness’ marriage: Why did she enter such an agreement? Why did she put up with it? What about her relationship with Denys?

  • What drew her to Africa? What kept her there?

  • What do you think about the political and social structure at that time? Was it right for them to have enslaved the locals?

  • How many historical movies can you think of where a woman is such a strong, independent character? Do you think these character traits were rare before women joined men in the workplace, for example, or even got the vote, or do you think they were just rarely depicted?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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