A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Language includes uses of "s--t" and "damn" (in French with subtitles).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several instances of smoking; drinking and drunkenness in a flashback scene.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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."
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Our Editors Recommend
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