A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Pursue your purpose, no matter what others think. Science protects humanity and helps people thrive (characters are on a quest for scientific answers about weather). Themes include courage, curiosity, perseverance.
Positive Role Models
Amelia Wren is a powerhouse of strength and courage, defying gender expectations of Victorian era. James Glaisher is a weather scientist who pushes forward with his research despite being ridiculed. Glaisher's business partner demonstrates humility, making cause of meteorology his life pursuit but not needing to be the person who takes the glory. Glaisher's real-life moment in history has been altered to include representation of women and people of color.
Violence & Scariness
Characters are frequently in significant peril. Several instances of people falling -- sometimes plummeting through the sky to their implied death, sometimes surviving despite great odds. A person slams into the ground and is dragged. Characters tussle over an object; it ends when one gets a nosebleed, which may make younger kids think it's more of a fight. A character is slapped. Scary moment when a dog drops from a high altitude (but is fine).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief image of a man kissing his wife's neck. A relative badgers her sister to find a husband.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brandy is used to clean a wound.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Aeronauts is a loosely historical hot air balloon adventure set in Victorian London. It tells the story of early meteorologist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne), who believes that weather can be predicted -- an outlandish idea at the time -- and perilously flies higher than anyone ever has to get data. He's joined by courageous pilot Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones), who completes the mission and saves their lives with her tenacity, toughness, intelligence, and strength. She's a wonderful role model who's based on the world's first female aeronaut, Sophie Blanchard (who ballooned for Napoleon). But it's worth noting that Wren's role in the story is revisionist history: Glaisher's real-life co-adventurer was a man named Henry Tracey Coxdell. While there's no drinking, smoking, swearing, or sex, characters are frequently in grave danger, and a man does plummet to his death (impact not shown). Others fall and survive (including a dog), a person slams into the ground and is dragged along, and one character gets a nosebleed after a tussle. Viewers will come away with an understanding of how the layers of the atmosphere are different, as well as messages about the value of science, perseverance, courage, curiosity, and humility. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The characters are inspiring, the story elements fascinating, and the visual effects breathtaking, but The Aeronauts still falls flat. Writer-director Tom Harper unspools the real-life record-setting balloon journey in close to real time, which creates a problem: That's a lot of happy floating time before nature threatens the expedition. One result is many wistful looks up toward the sky paired with "important" conversation that's obvious padding. Another solution is to recount Wren and Glaisher's backstory and motivations through flashbacks, a standard cinematic device that doesn't work smoothly here. Sometimes it seems like they've jumped forward in time, or you're not sure whose story we're looking at. Chances are good some kids will be confused, and since the technique is used a lot, that's a problem.
This is especially disappointing given the movie's potential to positively influence youth. Through Glaisher and Wren's adventure, scientific experimentation feels exciting. Yes, there's lots of fiddling with gauges and talk of structural integrity, but the notion of using scientific research to improve and save lives against the backdrop of being caught in a storm of Twister proportions is captivating. Wren embodies what it means to be bold in the sense that she steps outside of Victorian-era gender roles to follow her passion, as well as in the sense that she's fearless. Playing her, Jones emotes regret and caution while rediscovering her own will and courage. When she climbs on top of the balloon to break the ice that's preventing a descent, it's a thrilling moment for women: With dramatic flair, Amelia uses her heel to break a symbolic glass ceiling. The gorgeous shots of the balloon gliding through the sky and weathering the storm are the stuff artists dream of creating, and -- factoring in the death-defying actions and stunts -- the result is a cinematic wonder. Still, just like some scientific trials, The Aeronauts may have all the elements of success, but the outcome doesn't yield the desired results.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.