The Claim

Movie review by
M. Faust, Common Sense Media
The Claim Movie Poster Image
Mature viewers only; kids won't be interested.
  • R
  • 2001
  • 121 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Female characters struggle in a world where they must rely on men for their livelihoods.


A man is whipped as punishment for a crime. The town boss murders several people in a fit of rage. A man commits suicide when he's unable to win the respect of the adult daughter he abandoned as an infant.


Several of the leading characters are prostitutes who work in the town bordello, and nudity and sex figure prominently in several scenes, though they're not of an exploitative nature.


Some strong language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The town's recreational centers are the bordello and the saloon.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie isn't likely to interest most teens, which is probably for the best -- pervasive adult themes and some sexual and violent content make this a movie best for mature viewers only.

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What's the story?

Set in late 1800s in California, THE CLAIM is an unsparing look at greed, sin, and forgiveness. Its setting is as grim as the story it tells, with gray clouds and snowdrifts permeating practically every scene. At the movie's center is Dillon (Peter Mullen), who made a fortune in the gold rush and now owns most of the town of Kingdom Come. When a railroad surveyor comes to town Dillon sees a new opportunity and sets out to convince the company to put Kingdom Come on the railroad line. But when a beautiful woman and her daughter arrive in town, Dillon is in jeopardy of losing all he's worked so hard for. The women's presence forces Dillon to realize that the ambition and hard work that have taken over his life have come to nothing, leaving him a wealthy man in a desolate town not worth living in.

Is it any good?

British actor Peter Mullen gives an excellent performance and the other actors are as capable, especially Sarah Polley, but the story gives them less to do. In fact, some of their stories seem to have been truncated, as if the filmmakers decided in the editing process to concentrate solely on Mr. Dillon's character.

The epic photography of this harsh land is quite beautiful, as is the majestic yet troubling score by Michael Nyman (The Piano). But the movie's overall bleakness, while appropriate to its themes, makes it unlikely to appeal to a broad range of viewers. It's certainly not recommended for teens, except perhaps those with an interest in Thomas Hardy, from whose novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, this was loosely adapted.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this film compares to the book it is adapted from, Thomas Hardy's Mayor of Casterbridge.

Movie details

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