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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Seasons is a beautifully filmed documentary about the history of wildlife in the forests of Eastern and Western Europe. With minimum narration, the movie focuses on the life cycles of various animals -- bears, wolves, foxes, owls, big cats, hedgehogs, and more -- throughout the four seasons in various eras. The film chronicles the animals in their natural habitats and then slowly incorporates human involvement and impact on the creatures. Although the documentary is family-friendly, note that it doesn't sugar-coat the more violent aspects of life in the wild: Scenes show animals fighting aggressively, even killing and feasting on their prey. There are also scenes of an animal giving birth and nursing its young.
What's the story?
SEASONS -- a nature documentary from French filmmaker Jacques Perrin and co-director Jacques Cluzaud -- follows the animals of the European forests from the last Ice Age to modern times. In the same way that the filmmakers chronicled the lives of sea creatures in Oceans and birds in Winged Migration, in Seasons they trace the evolutionary life cycles of European land creatures (both predators and prey) throughout the seasons and the ages.
Is it any good?
Visionary camera work immerses audiences in the world of European forest animals, making sure we know how humans changed -- and destroyed -- the idyllic, if occasionally vicious, circle of life. Seasons is the result of more than four years of footage and research in the forests of France, Poland, and Norway. It gives viewers an up-close-and-personal look at the way the animals, including deer, lynx, fox, bison, horses, owls, wolves, bears, hedgehogs, and other creatures live (and in particular, hunt) when left alone by humans.
Speaking of humans, they only make an appearance halfway in -- and once they do, they're clearly positioned as the film's villains. The animals had coexisted with their natural roles in the food chain until people -- and their weapons and homes and thirst for land -- emerged as rulers over beasts. This part of the documentary isn't quite as effective or compelling (at this point, who doesn't know that humans aren't the best when it comes to animal protection?) as the scenes with just the animals. Whether it's the birth of a baby fawn or a pack of wolves tearing into a warthog, Seasons' best parts are all about the creatures' life in the wild.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the animal violence in Seasons. Is it OK for younger viewers? What's the difference between seeing animal violence and human violence?
Unlike many American-made nature documentaries, this one doesn't have constant narration or voice-over. Which way do you prefer, and why?
What makes documentaries about the animal kingdom so interesting? What are some of your favorites?
- In theaters: November 18, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: February 21, 2017
- Directors: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud
- Studio: Music Box Films
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Curiosity
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and related images
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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