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Skellig: The Owl Man
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Skellig: The Owl Man is a 2009 made-for-TV adaptation of David Almond's award-winning novel. There are some emotionally intense hospital scenes, and the film freely discusses death, dying, and miscarriages within families. Scenes with cockroaches and scenes where the titular character eats live snails could be difficult for more sensitive viewers, or those watching during a meal. A coach is shown belittling a boy because he is afraid of heights and unable to climb up the high dive to jump into a swimming pool. Aside from this, there is some minor taunting between tween boys who are friends, and a violent pushing and shoving match between two friends near the film's climax. There is also some language ("s--t," "piss off").
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What's the story?
Michael is the new kid at school, and he and his parents are adjusting to moving into a house in dire need of repairs as his mother (Kelly Macdonald) is weeks away from the birth of his sister. While exploring the back yard of the new property, Michael discovers an old shed; much to his surprise, a seemingly homeless man (Tim Roth) lives there. Michael begins trying to befriend this mysterious, grumpy, and disheveled man by bringing him beer and Chinese food, and with the help of his neighbor, a misfit girl named Mina, Michael begins to realize that there is more to this man than he had previously believed. As it is discovered that Michael's newborn baby sister has a heart condition and might not live, the man in the shed -- Skellig -- gains strength, and as the mysteries of who he is and what he can do begin to be revealed, Michael sees Skellig as his only hope to save the baby's life, but only if Skellig can be made to believe in himself.
Is it any good?
SKELLIG: THE OWL MAN is a gripping mix of mysterious magical realism, emotionally intense family drama, and a tween boy coming-of-age story. What works is how it manages to balance all three of these elements while making full use of the possibilities in each story. The film doesn't sugarcoat old age, the difficulties kids have in moving to a new place, and the trials parents endure after experiencing a miscarriage. All this is presented in a way that is accessible and identifiable enough for parents and kids, and with the mystery of Skellig in the mix, the result is a powerful message on belief and hope.
While the movie's pace, and some of the graphic scenes of cockroaches and snails might be a bit much for younger viewers, for tween kids and parents, Skellig: The Owl Man is an engaging adaptation of the best-selling novel.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about books that are turned into films. What are the challenges in adapting a best-selling novel into a movie?
How does this film address the challenges kids face when moving to a new house and attending a new school?
How does the movie's magical realism contrast and also heighten the real-life problems presented?
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