Queen and Country

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Queen and Country Movie Poster Image
Charming but mature post-WWII coming-of-age drama.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 105 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Explores the theme of what it means to be a patriot who may not always agree with the policies of his/her country, the importance of thinking for yourself even as you follow rules, and the mysteries of attraction and romance. Also reveals how class-conscious English society was -- and why it was so limiting for people in terms of who they could/should marry or fall in love with.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bill is a smart young man of convictions. He loves his parents, sister, and friends and teaches the conscripted soldiers how to think for themselves, although it eventually gets him in trouble. Percy is a loyal friend to Bill, even though he's a troublemaker.

Violence

Two soldiers have a fist fight, two friends push and shove each other, a woman is hospitalized. An officer visits a military hospital full of injured soldiers, including an amputee and some suffering from shell shock/PTSD.

Sex

Much discussion of virginity and sex, but only one actual sex scene. It's quick and shadowy; viewers see kissing and then two characters on a bed together -- he has his trousers down, and she has her legs wrapped around him. Earlier in the movie, a character catches two soldiers peeping on her nurses' dormitory, and she presses a bare breast against a window. Best friends reveal that one had sex with the other's girlfriend, and the other with his friend's sister. A woman disrobes to go skinny-dipping; her butt is in full view.

Language

Frequent strong language includes "f--k" (both as a term for sex and as an expletive),"wanker," "s--t," "sh-te," "a--hole," "t-ts," and the insults "coward," "skiver,"  "useless," etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes (or "fags" as the Brits call them) -- as was typical of the time -- and drink on a regular basis.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Queen and Country is the sequel to director John Boorman's autobiographical WWII drama Hope and Glory (1987). Set in 1952, the sequel has a coming-of-age feel, with the main protagonist (and stand-in for Boorman) now an 18-year-old conscript in the British National Army. The movie follows young Bill as he serves his country in the post-WWII era, befriends other soldiers, and struggles with superiors still reeling from the war. Expect frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "wanker," "a--hole," etc.) and a couple of scenes that show a woman partially nude: A woman bares a breast to a peeping soldier she's attracted to, and a woman strips to go skinny dipping (her butt is seen). There's also a non-graphic sex scene and much talk among the soldiers about sex, virginity, and which female celebrities they find beddable (like Jane Russell and Elizabeth Taylor). Characters drink and smoke (typical for the time period), and some soldiers' wounds are shown (amputations, shell shock). With its various commentaries on politics, class, and love, Queen and Country is a thought-provoking period film for mature high school-aged teens.

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What's the story?

QUEEN AND COUNTRY is the sequel to director John Boorman's semi-autobiographical 1987 drama Hope and Glory, which followed a boy (based on Boorman) living in London during World War II. Set nine years after the end of the war, Queen and Country checks back in with Bill (Callum Turner) as an 18-year-old facing conscription into the National Army. Is there that he meets another conscript, troublemaker Percy (Caleb Landry Jones), the son of a war hero. Despite their different personalities, the two become roommates and best mates, neither of whom can stand their superior officers -- especially rigid Sgt. Major Bradley (David Thewlis), who threatens to have them court-martialed for the most minor of infractions; Draconian Regimental Sergeant Major Digby (Brian F. O'Byrne); and clever but disapproving Major Cross (Richard E. Grant). On the bright side, Bill and Percy both find young ladies to pursue, although Bill's object of affection is a mysterious "older" university student who won't even tell him her name, so he calls her Ophelia (Tamsin Egerton).

Is it any good?

Boorman hasn't directed a film since 2006, so it's delightful to see he hasn't lost his touch at making a thoughtful, introspective movie based on his own experiences. Since Hollywood overtly favors youth, it's refreshing to see a film by an elderly director who can still so poignantly capture the emotional struggles of becoming a man in the age after a world war. Of course, it helps that Queen and Country is a fictionalized memoir of Boorman's own life, much like Hope and Glory. Turner is wonderfully expressive and vulnerable as Bill, on the cusp of adulthood and on the fence about everything around him. He's neither a communist nor a capitalist. He's not a skiver or a clown, but he's not interested in the strict life of an Army man.

The supporting cast is excellent at navigating the serious with the humorous. Jones is completely believable as the joker to Bill's thinker, the one more interested in chasing dames (and losing his virginity) than following in his father's footsteps as a decorated veteran. Although some of the movie's promotional materials seem to stress the story's romance, it's not a typical boy-woos-girl-outside-his-class love story. Bill's romance with his Ophelia isn't a sweeping, visceral affair like in Atonement; it's a romance much better in his mind than in reality. But Egerton is lovely as the fragile, damaged young woman beholden to her aristocratic background. Queen and Country is a little bit of everything: sweet, thought-provoking, funny, and poignant -- just like that time in life always has been and always will be.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about historical coming-of-age movies. How do Bill's struggles compare to those of today's 18-year-olds? What's the same, and what's unique to the period he grew up in? What makes something a coming-of-age story?

  • Queen and Country is the sequel to Hope and Glory, which came out in 1987. Is that too long between films, or does this one stand alone because it captures a different time in the character's life?

  • How are the early '50s portrayed in the film? Why was it such an important time in global politics? Why does Bill say he doesn't believe in either communism or capitalism?

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