The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Movie Poster Image
Subtitled drama takes paralyzed man's perspective.
  • PG-13
  • 2007
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydorrk April 9, 2008


Very moving film, but has more sex content than the official review suggests, in flashbacks of the lead characters pre-stroke life, including nude models at pho... Continue reading
Adult Written bycatarata24 April 9, 2008

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 viewi... Continue reading
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.
Teen, 14 years old Written byBestPicture1996 February 16, 2010

First foreign film seen

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is a graphic movie, not aimed at children at all. I watched it because of all the award nominations it was gatheri... Continue reading

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?

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.

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."

Talk to your kids 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

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