A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
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