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The Cider House Rules
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, based on a John Irving novel, won an Oscar for best screenplay. Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), twice returned by adoptive parents, has become the surrogate son of the head of the orphanage, the benevolent Dr. Larch (Michael Caine). Homer has been trained by Dr. Larch to practice medicine and perform medical procedures, including illegal abortions, which Homer refuses to perform. While Dr. Larch has been grooming Homer to take his place at the orphanage, Homer longs to see the world outside the orphanage. Homer gets a job picking apples, living in barracks with migrant workers led by Mr. Rose (Delroy Lindo). On the wall is a list of rules, but the migrant workers cannot read, and believe that since they did not write the rules, the rules cannot apply to them. They feel the same way about other kinds of rules.
Is it any good?
Rules are the theme of this stirring movie. Many of the characters break rules, from the rules on the wall (against smoking in bed and climbing on the roof) to the laws of the state (abortion, licensing requirements, prohibitions on drug abuse), to rules that most people would consider fundamental principles of morality (prohibitions against dishonesty, betrayal of a friend's trust, incest, and, for many people, abortion). In some cases, viewers will think that breaking the rules was the right thing; in others they will not. Notice that there are rules that characters take seriously, like the rules that Mr. Rose explains to Homer about how to pick apples. One of those rules, is to be careful not to pick an apple bud, because then "you're picking two apples, this year's and next year's," a rule which may have a deeper meaning to Homer given his views on abortion.
And compare the way that Candy lets life make decisions for her with a "wait and see" approach to Homer, who makes decisions based on his values, including the importance of having a purpose. They have very different reasons for getting together -- he loves her, but she "just can't be alone."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about rules, how they are developed, when, if ever, breaking rules is justified, and, when it is justified, how important it is to be willing to take the consequences. Some characters in the movie seem to let life decide things for them, but others take the situation into their own hands, and it is worth discussing how to know when to act.
- In theaters: December 10, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: August 15, 2000
- Cast: Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Tobey Maguire
- Director: Lasse Hallstrom
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic elements, sexuality, nudity, substance abuse and some violence
For kids who love dramas
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.