The Dressmaker

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Dressmaker Movie Poster Image
Irreverent dramedy about revenge deals with abuse.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

It's more than OK to defend your good name, especially when it hasn't been tarnished not through your own mistakes but through others' desire to hurt you. Perseverance is a theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tilly may be down, but she's never out; despite the slings and arrows aimed her way, she manages to find a way to stay true to herself and still care for her mother, who sometimes acts like she doesn't appreciate her.


A boy is shown with what appears to be a fatal cut on his head. Townspeople openly jeer at Tilly and her mother, to the point of bullying. A man renders his wife unconscious with a "tonic" so he can have sex with her. Kids are shown bullying a young girl to tears. A few characters die, sometimes through gruesome means (not always shown, but discussed). A woman stabs her husband and later, off camera, kills him. Another woman sets fire to her home.


Couples kiss. In one scene, a married man is shown about to have sex with a woman who's not his wife; he undresses, but viewers don't see him naked. In another scene, a man strips down to his skivvies and flirts with a woman while standing there half-naked. 


Relatively infrequent use of words including "bastard," "s--t," and "f--k."


Singer sewing machine.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of smoking and drinking (sometimes to excess). One character gets hooked on hashish-spiked candy. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dressmaker is an eccentric, appealing dramedy that's best for older teens and adults, thanks to fairly intense material about murder, mental illness, and bullying. There's also plenty of smoking and drinking, some kissing and sexual situations (though no nudity), and swearing (including "f--k"). Some upsetting/violent scenes are shown or discussed, and in one scene a man drugs his bereaved wife so he can have sex with her. Still, the main character demonstrates perseverance against the odds.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAnnaWestbrook January 30, 2021

Call it Rape

The description or the man drugging his wife to have sex we her needs to be called a rape scene. The man doesn’t drug his wife to have sex with her. He drugs hi... Continue reading
Parent Written byAnn C. April 17, 2018

The Dressmaker made me Smile

Ok so the language isn't 1st grade and there are adult themes but if conversing with your children about the media they consume it has great teachable mome... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBodhiDW February 2, 2021

a work of art

the acting, costumes, relationship dynamics, and overarching plot of this movie was amazing. if i could have seen it in theaters i definitely would have. there... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written by17 years old May 24, 2019

Good as

There is a little bit of violence so don’t watch it if you are sensitive to violence and also a lady slices her husbands ankles. It’s got a tiny bit of sex but... Continue reading

What's the story?

Apparently, you can go home again. That is, you can if you're Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet), aka THE DRESSMAKER. Her mother, Molly (Judy Davis), barely remembers her, and the entire town of Dungatar, Australia, appears to hate her. Tilly thinks she's cursed: Shipped off as a child when she was found standing next to a dead schoolmate, she suffers from feelings of guilt over a murder she doesn't remember committing. Her goal is to piece together the fragments of her memories in a town that has never been very kind to her or her mother. And she wants to find out once and for all if she truly is responsible for the terrible crime that people say she committed. Liam Hensworth co-stars as a young man who sees beyond Tilly's reputation. 

Is it any good?

Revenge is a dish best served fashionably attired and ready to pounce in this wacky, sometimes cynical, and often winning examination of forgiveness, revenge, and everything in between. It's also a treat, simply because it takes you to unexpected places in unexpected ways. There's nothing that you could call boring in The Dressmaker. Its bold disregard for the cliched rules of Hollywood storytelling keeps the film energetic, if a little too expansive sometimes. In short, The Dressmaker -- if you'll pardon the pun -- is a near-perfect fit.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the different kinds of abuse portrayed in The Dressmaker, from childhood bullying to sexual assault within a marriage. How does it deal with these hot-button topics?

  • How does the film depict small-town living? Do you think it's accurate?

  • What role do drinking and smoking play in the story? Are they glamorized?

  • How do the residents of Dungatar treat Tilly when she returns? Are they being cruel, or are their reactions justified? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love offbeat movies

Themes & Topics

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