The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

  • Review Date: April 28, 2008
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Subtitled drama takes paralyzed man's perspective.
  • Review Date: April 28, 2008
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 114 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Bauby regrets some earlier life choices: abandoning lovers, not spending time with his children, and indirectly causing a friend's imprisonment. After his paralysis, he's initially ironic and angry, then grows appreciative of women's efforts and his own father's pain.


Bauby suggests he'd like to die, at which point a therapist chides him for being selfish. Bauby remembers a past event when an associate was held hostage in Beirut (no images shown).


Partial female and male nudity (breasts/nipples, buttocks) during bed/love scenes. A man's genitals are shown in a non-sexual context. Repeated cleavage shots, as Bauby looks at his ex-lovers and therapists leaning in to him. Bauby fantasizes about a passionate meal and kissing and embracing a therapist. Slow-motion shot of nurses' bottoms as they walk. Bauby refers to his previous lusty life.


Language includes uses of "s--t" and "damn" (in French with subtitles).

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Several instances of smoking; drinking and drunkenness in a flashback scene.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this subtitled French drama offers a fairly sophisticated, though repetitive, look at a single paralyzed character's point of view. The camera takes his very limited perspective (through one eye) and shows his lusty fantasies and flashbacks (which include some passionate tongue kissing). There are repeated shots of cleavage and women's bottoms, as well as both bare breasts and buttocks (and, in one non-sexual scene, male genitals). In voice-over narration, the main character talks about his lack of mobility and active imagination, including his desires for sex and, occasionally, death.

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

At the start of THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), receives devastating news as he's emerging from a coma: The Elle France editor has suffered a devastating stroke at the age of 43, effecting his "locked-in syndrome" -- complete immobility accompanied by complete comprehension. Julian Schnabel's movie follows the outline of Bauby's memoir, recounting his former playboy life while reckoning with his current condition. The former editor's only means of communication is his left eye, which he can still blink.

Is it any good?


Baudy's perspective is rendered through from point-of-view framing and a voice over indicating his feisty sarcasm and occasional self-pity. On meeting speech therapist Henriette (Marie-Josée Croze), his reaction is flirtatious in his own mind. "Am I in heaven?" he muses as the camera lists toward her breasts. She's the one who proposes the dictation system by which he blinks to choose a letter. "My task now," he says, "is to write the motionless travel notes from a castaway on the shores of loneliness."

Warpy wide angles and smudgy pastels emulate Bauby's disorientation, earning Schnabel directing awards at Cannes and the Golden Globes. While the approach is artful, it's also gimmicky. It can be tedious when the compositions suggest Bauby's subjective view of women's bodies, but the shifts between past and present -- as when Bauby remembers shaving his aging father (Max von Sydow) -- serve up some tender memories, in which the son now recognizes his own present. As he watches his own children playing at the beach, Bauby finally understands how important it is to share feelings with loved ones. Feeling reduced now to a "zombie," denied what he most wants -- sensual pleasures and connections -- he's angry and grateful at once. That gap is the movie's most affecting dilemma, unresolved by aesthetic effects.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the media can adopt different perspectives to tell different kinds of stories. How does seeing things from unexpected points of view affect how you feel about characters and their stories? Have you seen any other movies that have a similar point of view to this one? Families can also discuss Bauby's efforts to communicate even when it seems impossible. How do his memories affect his present-day perspective?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 30, 2007
DVD release date:April 28, 2008
Cast:Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze, Mathieu Amalric
Director:Julian Schnabel
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:nudity, sexual content and some language.

This review of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bycatarata24 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Very sad, but touching.

This is more a review of the content that I found objectionable for the rating, rather than a review of the movie itself. I read the review on here before viewing it. So, I knew that the main character would be staring at women's cleavage and bottoms. However, I was not prepared for the actual nudity. There were at least three instances of bare breasts in the movie. Two sexual, one not (a fashion shoot). Also, there was a naked frontal view of the main character, however it was not sexual as he was being bathed. I would not let a teenager watch this. However, I am pretty sensitive to nudity in movies and don't feel children should be exposed to this anymore than they have to be.
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Diving Bell and the Butterfly

An absolutely brilliant, beautiful, creative masterpiece. I loved it, and do not understand at all why it only got 3 stars from the main CSM reviewer. It is a very sad movie, but incredibly life-affirming and beautiful at the same time. A great movie, don't listen to CSM on this one.
Teen, 15 years old Written bySaad1Khan November 16, 2014

I really mean just fine

Fine but not for girls or boys aged under 15 contains scenes showing naked male character and females wearing tight outfits which exposures cleavage.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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