Backpacking drama has violence, language, suicide, sex.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Beach is the 2000 film adaptation of the popular '90s book by Alex Garland and features bloody violence, strong language, sex, and drugs. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Richard, a backpacker in Thailand who heads in search of a secret beach. Director Danny Boyle honors the dark thematics of the book with murder and spiraling mental health all being prominent themes. There is a fatal shark attack with bloody wounds shown, and characters are left to die. A map to the beach is found in the blood-spattered room of a man who has died by suicide. The film frequently uses language such as "f--k" and "a--hole." Marijuana is also routinely smoked, and the characters drink beer. There are a number of sex scenes, but none are especially graphic, with only brief topless nudity. Themes of idealism, consumerism, and the tragic consequences of lying are also ripe for debate.
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What's the Story?
THE BEACH sees a restless young adult, Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio), pursue hedonism and adventure by backpacking to Thailand. When a troubled tourist called Daffy (Robert Carlyle) shares his secret map for a secluded beach, Richard embarks upon a dangerous pilgrimage, bringing along French couple Françoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and Étienne (Guillaume Canet) for the ride. After overcoming hungry sharks and gun-toting marijuana farmers, they find the beach led by Sal (Tilda Swinton) and join the tight community of young people living by their own rules.
Is It Any Good?
Sun, sea, and observations on how Richard (a young DiCaprio) survived the world without a smartphone make this 2000 film a satisfying title to reflect on with families. The Beach presents a young man's idea of pure escapism, and then gets to work shredding it into nothing but a dangerous fantasy. This is where the film's main success lies. Where it falls apart is within its muddle of genres from romance and thriller to mystery and drama, which makes for some bumpy storytelling. Yet watching the film decades later spurs a nostalgia for when young travelers searched for their version of paradise in the absence of social media.
Swinton (Sal) is always a joy to watch, and here she plays a mesmerizing role of a powerful matriarch on the brink of losing control. DiCaprio is also perfectly cast as a young, ambitious, and irresistible fool. The film is directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle, who has a tendency toward dark stories involving lost souls and big dreamers, usually in terrifying circumstances -- see Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and Shallow Grave. The Beach echoes those signature themes, but with not as much grip as Boyle's better works.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about The Beach's violence and disturbing imagery. Was it necessary to the plot? Was it thrilling, or upsetting? How did the movie achieve that reaction?
What would be the pros and cons of living on a secret island? Was the community of people on the island reflective of a diverse society? Why do you think they wanted to keep their beach a secret?
Smartphones were not around in the '90s when this film was set. How do you think the film would be different if the characters had access to the internet on their phones? Would the storyline still work?
How was sex portrayed in the film? Was it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Have you read the book the movie is based on? How did this compare? What other movies based on books have you seen?
- In theaters: February 11, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: January 3, 2005
- Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Virginie Ledoyen
- Director: Danny Boyle
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, some strong sexuality, language and drug content
- Last updated: February 19, 2023
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