That Good Night

Movie review by
Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media
That Good Night Movie Poster Image
Family drama has one-sided anti-euthanasia message.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 92 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Simplistic anti-euthanasia message and discussions about abortion. Selfish and mean behavior displayed until an unrealistic change of heart.

Positive Role Models

Ralph is a grumpy, selfish elderly man who neglected his family and arranges his own death via euthanasia. However, after various events, he begins to have a more positive outlook on life. His wife, Anna, is doting and oppressed. One younger woman stands up to Ralph, but generally women are excluded from serious conversations.

Violence

Character appears to be killed by lethal injection. Some heated arguments. Character has a heart attack and is attended to by paramedics. Character dies during a peaceful death scene.

Sex

Some flirting. Two couples kiss. Character wearing just a towel lays on top of partner and kisses them. Still-life paintings depict naked behinds.

Language

Infrequent language includes "bloody," "nuts," "piss," "crap," "s--t," "hell," "bastard," "tosser," and "bugger."

Consumerism

Apple computers are prominent.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of mentions of brandy -- a character's regular drink. Character is drunk following a meal. Character drinks a bottle of beer. A lethal injection is administered in a dreamlike sequence.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that That Good Night is a family drama, based on a 1996 play, and has a clear, extremely simplistic anti-euthanasia message. It is the last movie to star British actor John Hurt, who plays Ralph, an elderly screenwriter who decides to end his own life after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. The movie is very much against assisted suicide, although Ralph does provide his arguments for, before having a fairy-tale change of heart. Ralph comes across as selfish and grumpy and has denied his younger wife, Anna (Sofia Helin), a child, causing emotional upset. Anna, along with the few other female characters are also sidelined when it comes to the more serious conversations within the movie. There are some potentially distressing scenes, including a man appearing to be killed by lethal injection, someone having a heart attack, and a death. Infrequent language includes "c--p," "s--t," and "hell." Characters infrequently drink alcohol and one gets drunk but jovial in a brief scene. Abortion is also discussed in the movie.

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What's the story?

In THAT GOOD NIGHT, Ralph (John Hurt), an elderly famous screenwriter, arranges his own death after the diagnosis of a terminal illness, but has a change of heart after a second chance at life.

Is it any good?

The story of an old man at the end of his life -- the film prophetically proved to be Hurt's last -- should be a guaranteed tearjerker. But That Good Night is a movie so focused on its moral message that it fails to make room for any genuine emotion. Hurt plays Ralph, a grumpy, mean-spirited man who decides to end his own life after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Then Charles Dance appears as some kind of angel, and just like that Ralph is a changed man and suddenly life is great. For such an incredibly complex subject, this one-sided, fairy-tale portrayal comes across as very simplistic.

There's a further tonal shift when it comes to the equally delicate subject of abortion. When Ralph learns that his son Michael (Max Brown) is to become a father, Ralph immediately offers to pay for an abortion. When he's told no, he's suddenly the world’s happiest grandfather-to-be. This lack of consistency and sudden gear changes all make for rather ham-fisted and simplistic messaging: Euthanasia is bad. Abortion is bad. The result is a disappointing swan song for Hurt and a movie that rarely looks like anything other than a glossy health insurance commercial.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how euthanasia is portrayed in That Good Night. What makes Ralph change his mind? Do you think a person has the right to choose when and how they end their life?

  • The movie deals with some complex subjects. Do you think it handles them sensitively? Is the movie balanced in its approach to these subjects?

  • This was John Hurt's final film -- does the movie have a bigger emotional impact knowing he died soon after making it?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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