A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Silence is a religious epic set in the 17th century from Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese. Anyone who loved his earlier films The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun (or pretty much any of his movies) will want to see this. It's complex, difficult, and at times unwieldy and gory, but it's also magnificent and masterful. Expect some scenes of very graphic violence: People are crucified and tortured in other ways, including drowning, scalding water, bleeding cuts, etc. Heads are severed, and blood sprays are shown. Characters die, including some main characters. In one scene, a secondary character is shown stumbling drunk, but otherwise, substance use, language, and sex aren't issues.
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What's the story?
In SILENCE, it's the 17th century, and two Jesuit priests -- Sebastiao Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver) -- hear someone read a letter from their mentor, Father Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who has disappeared in Japan. He describes many tortures under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate, which has outlawed Catholicism. Rodrigues and Garrpe decide to travel to Japan in hopes of finding Father Ferreira; they discover that the situation in the country is as miserable as Ferreira described. At first, they're hidden by a village of Christians who are hungry for religious leadership, but then Rodrigues journeys further inland. He slowly realizes that the idea of faith isn't so simple and that belief can take many forms. He also begins to wonder why, in the face of so much wretchedness, are his prayers not answered? Why is God silent?
Is it any good?
This religious epic, a dream project of director Martin Scorsese for decades, is somewhat difficult and unwieldy, as well as a bit gory, but it's also magnificent, beautiful, and masterful. The Oscar winner read the source novel by Shusaku Endo while in Japan in 1989 and has been trying ever since to bring it to the screen; it's impossible to guess whether the results could ever have been any better than this masterful drama. Silence is a mix of Hollywood grandeur and genuine existential, soul-searching, much like the films Scorsese grew up watching.
For some, Garfield may not seem enough of a heavyweight actor for the role of Garrpe, but his eyes reveal genuine pain as he struggles with his personal crisis. The wonderful Japanese actor Issey Ogata, playing an inquisitor, gives a breakout performance, adding weight and humanity to the "other" side of the argument. (Silence never settles for any easy answers.) Neeson and Driver are also excellent, lending their bodies and souls to the movie's powerful cinematic depiction of landscapes, which are every bit as treacherous and shifting as belief itself.
Talk to your kids about ...
When the characters are given a chance to speak out against their faith or allow others to suffer, why do you think they make the choice they do? What would you have done?
Why do you think Ferreira chooses what he did? What has he learned about belief and faith? Is he right, or did he make a mistake?
How did you feel about the Japanese inquisitor character? Is he a stereotype? Is he oppressive? Does he have a fair point?
Who do you think this film is intended to appeal to? How can you tell? What makes something a "Scorsese movie"?
- In theaters: December 23, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: March 28, 2017
- Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson
- Director: Martin Scorsese
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, History
- Run time: 161 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some disturbing violent content
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