Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Silk Movie Poster Image
Dull period drama goes for sensuality over story.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 112 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

A married man is unfaithful; he trespasses into a country that forbids Westerners; he also visits a brothel (but doesn't avail himself of its services). Nevertheless, he's also devoted to his wife and helps care for a child abandoned by its father. He also risks his life to help save his village from financial ruin.


A gun trader passes through a small Japanese village with his wares; Herve sees burned buildings and dead bodies after war comes to the village. A teenage boy is hanged (viewers see his dangling body) for breaking the local leader's rules. The leader threatens Herve with a gun.


Sensual love scenes include naked breasts (some seen in close-up) and simulated intercourse (one of the scenes is an adulterous encounter). Men are also briefly seen naked in profile. Other intimate interactions between characters include a scene in which a woman caresses a man while he's in the bath, and another in which a man observes a naked woman bathing in a hot spring.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some sake-drinking and toasting; some other social drinking and smoking (accurate for the time period). Nothing excessive.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the only thing that's likely to draw teens to this slow-moving period drama is the fact that star Keira Knightley bares her breasts in one of the film's sensual love scenes. She's not the only one; two other women are shown topless as well, and men are briefly seen naked in profile. On the plus side, there's no profanity and not much violence (though a teenage character is shown hanged, and the main character comes across some burned dead bodies in a ruined village). But the movie's subjects -- the true measure of love and the cost of infidelity -- are definitely aimed more at adults than younger viewers.

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What's the story?

In 19th-century France dutiful soldier Herve Joncour (Michael Pitt), finds his real calling as a silkworm trader. He gets the job when the owner of the town's silk mills, Baldabiou (Alfred Molina), recruits him to travel to far-flung locations in search of healthy worm eggs after a virus decimates the European supply. Herve's friends and family are depending on him, since the mills employ nearly everyone who lives in his town. But the journey to Japan is dangerous -- he doesn't speak the language, he must trust in strangers, and he has to be blindfolded through parts of the arduous trip -- and it also means leaving his beloved wife, Helene (Keira Knightley), behind for months at a time. On Herve's first trip, he glimpses a mysterious young woman (Sei Ashina). They hardly interact, but he can't get her out of his mind, even when he's back home with the ostensible love of his life.

Is it any good?

SILK is beautiful to stare at: The landscape shots, especially, have the look and feel of mournful paintings. But visuals alone can't carry the tale, and while this adaptation of Alessandro Baricco's novel starts out promisingly, it's ultimately too lightweight to satisfy. Director Francois Girard attempts to examine what binds two people together, a connection as ephemeral as silk threads. Does Herve have to venture halfway around the world to find true passion, or is it right in his back yard (or, rather, garden)? But the film lingers too long on every scene, undercutting Girard's vision. What feels like poetry turns portentous, and, while the film celebrates commitment and devotion in its own way, in the end the director doesn't come up with much of an answer to his own question.

Alfred Molina gives of the movie's few energetic performances. Pitt is miscast; he belongs so much in the slacker 21st century that he looks like he's playing dress-up. Knightley, on the other hand, feels like she belongs; but she's window dressing. Though she's pivotal to the story, she has little to do but look sublime. Having done one-too-many period pieces, she appears too complacent, and her characterization lacks spark (perhaps her next film ought to be one set in the present).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what message the film sends about love and commitment. Was it necessary for Herve to risk his life to be able to find out, in the end, what love means? Why do so many movies and TV shows depict men (and women) who seem to find it difficult to commit to or accept the love that's before them? What's the fascination with the unknown? Why does it always seem like such a difficult choice to be loyal? Is it that hard in real life?

Movie details

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