Solaris

Movie review by
Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media
Solaris Movie Poster Image
Existential sci-fi drama has language, sex, adult themes.
  • PG-13
  • 2002
  • 99 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The enduring power of love, the need for communication and forgiveness in a relationship. Themes of faith, existentialism, free will, and the afterlife, as well as complications of dealing with grief.

Positive Role Models

Psychologist Chris Kelvin is smart and sensitive, though his feelings can make him behave selfishly. Other characters show a strong emotional intelligence, willingness to contemplate philosophical and ethical questions about existence. A female scientist is a strong, intelligent voice of reason.

Violence

References to characters taking their own lives. Dead bodies are shown, some bloodied. Mention of a dead spouse and sibling. A cut to the finger is shown close up, as is a facial wound following fatal consumption of liquid oxygen. Blood stains are seen on floors, walls, ceilings. Abortion is referenced. A character expresses anger by hitting objects.

Sex

Sexual intercourse is depicted on-screen a number of times, including full nudity from behind. Scenes of kissing. Characters in bed together.

Language

Occasional language includes "f--king" and "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink alcohol at bars and with dinner, but are not seen to be drunk. Prescription medication is taken, and pills are shown on numerous occasions. Implication of an overdose.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Solaris is a sci-fi drama -- at once based on a book and a remake of a 1972 version -- that explores adult themes and contains sex, nudity, and some language. The movie combines often abstract, metaphysical musings with a more immediate study of grief and desire. While investigating a space station, psychologist Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) begins to see his deceased wife, Rheya (Natascha McElhone). Romance is at the heart of the movie, and sexual intercourse is portrayed, including full nudity from behind. Occasional strong language includes "f--king" and "s--t," and dead bodies and blood stains are shown. While some of the adult themes include philosophical and existential dilemmas, there are also references to abortion and characters taking their own lives. Alcohol is consumed on occasion, and prescription pills are taken. Some younger viewers may find the slow pace and lack of action difficult to stick with.

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What's the story?

In SOLARIS, psychologist Chris Kelvin (George Clooney) is sent aboard a space station to investigate a series of unexplained events, which appear to be caused by the nearby planet Solaris. When he begins to experience the phenomena himself, being reunited with a version of his deceased wife, Rheya (Natascha McElhone), he struggles to separate his emotions from reality as he gets pulled further into the mystery that threatens to envelop all onboard.

Is it any good?

Steven Soderbergh's slick, Hollywood retelling of Stanislaw Lem's novel leans deeper into the emotional turmoil than Andrei Tarkovsky's acclaimed (if lengthy) 1972 version. In this 2002 version of Solaris, Clooney begins in familiar territory: successful, charming, seductive. But he soon stretches his acting muscles in an intimate portrayal of a man broken by grief. McElhone's Rheya has a disjointed, other-worldly quality, a character that never fully materializes either in flashback or present-day. Yet this perfectly encapsulates the movie's uneasy relationship between reality and simulation, memory and lived experience.

Also responsible for the cinematography and editing, Soderbergh's visuals are magnificent. Atmospheric, visual flashbacks are paired with stark, claustrophobic space station interiors. While lingering, awe-inspiring views of space, with displays of red, blue, and purple light, ebb and spark like the nerve impulses of a giant brain. Though there's a slightness to the way the story is told, these visuals ensure the film's enigmatic allure makes a lasting impact.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the nature of grief and how it manifests itself in Solaris. What are some of the ethical questions raised? How would you interpret the ending, and how did it connect to the film's wider philosophical questions?

  • Discuss the language used in the movie. Did it seem necessary, or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?

  • How did the movie portray sex and love? Was it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • How does this movie compare to other sci-fi movies you might have seen?

Movie details

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