By Danny Brogan,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Feel-good British dramedy has language, smoking, racism.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Look out for others and help those in need. Society is about togetherness not individuality. Stand up for what you believe in. Show courage and perseverance in trying to achieve your goals. However, a number of these positive traits are exemplified by actions that break the law. Importance of dealing with grief is partly addressed.
Positive Role Models
Kempton Bunton is a principled man who believes in helping others, even if that means breaking the law and finding himself in trouble. He is shown to be a good father, shows courage and determination with no interest in personal financial reward. But this often puts him at odds with both the law and his wife, Dorothy. Dorothy loves her husband but becomes increasingly frustrated by his moral crusades. She refuses to talk about the death of their daughter. One of their sons, Jackie, looks up to his father and helps him where he can.
A working-class 60-year-old man takes on the establishment in an effort to improve the lives of older adults. He is capable, smart, and just, although he routinely breaks the law. Most characters are from the north of England, portrayed with heavy accents. Limited diversity in terms of race, apart from a few background characters and a South Asian man who is racially abused at work. Little gender balance: Women are restricted to roles of wife and girlfriend, their characters having little impact on the story. Example of sexist and misogynistic behavior in the workplace when a man makes a comment about a women's body. A brief scene involves a disabled man in the back of a cab.
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Violence & Scariness
A character is escorted off premises by police. References to someone being killed in a bicycle accident; characters are seen visiting their grave. A joke is made about punching people in power. Brief discussion about capital punishment and people being hanged. Reference to World War I and someone being injured when a tank drove over them. A story is told about a character getting into trouble at sea but being rescued.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Both brief and passionate kissing. A couple are seen having sex against a wardrobe. Both are fully clothed; no nudity. Reference to going to a club to "meet girls." After leaving a place of work, a character is objectified when someone remarks on their "nice arse." A painting shows a pair of breasts.
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Language used includes variants of "f--k," "f---ing," "bastard," "s--t," "s--ting," "shite," "piss," "bollocks," "hell," "bloody," "idiot," "balls," "stupid," "arse," and "penis." British phrase "Gordon Bennett" is used to express surprise. "Jesus Christ" and "God" are used as exclamations. Racist incidents include a South Asian character being called a "Paki."
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Products & Purchases
A piece of art is stolen with the intention of receiving a ransom. But the money received is intended to help other people rather than be used for personal or materialistic reasons -- although some try to persuade otherwise. One minor character lives in a grand house. Some old brand names are depicted for period setting.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters are seen smoking cigarettes and pipes. Some drinking both at home and in the pub. But no actual drunkenness depicted on-screen. Reference to not drinking and driving.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Duke is an uplifting British underdog story that's based on real events and features strong language, including some racist slurs. It's 1961, and Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent) is a 60-year-old working-class man from the north of England who is accused of stealing a valuable Goya portrait. Bunton has spent his life trying to help people, particularly older adults. However, his principles often puts him at odds with the law -- and with his wife, Dorothy (Helen Mirren). Although it's not constant, strong language, including variants of "f--k," do feature. There is also some depiction of racist behavior when a South Asian man is called a "Paki" -- Kempton stands up to the perpetrator. Reflecting the '60s time period, characters are seen smoking, both cigarettes and pipes. There is also some depiction of drinking, although never to excess. There is one brief sex scene, although there is no nudity and the scene is used as part of the discovery of the painting. A subplot to the movie involves Kempton and Dorothy coming to terms with the death of their daughter. Both deal with it in different ways: Kempton writes about it, whereas Dorothy refuses to talk about it.
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What's the Story?
Based on a true story, THE DUKE recounts how Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent), a 60-year-old man from the north of England, was accused of stealing Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington in 1961. However, rather than for personal or financial gain, the theft was actually part of an elaborate ploy to provide better rights and care for older adults. But not everyone looked favorably on Bunton, most notably the police and his long-suffering wife, Dorothy (Helen Mirren).
Is It Any Good?
This warm, light-hearted British drama is one of those films where the premise is almost too hard to believe. The Duke proves that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction as it tells the remarkable tale of how one man single-handedly stole a portrait by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya from London's National Gallery. The theft of the Duke of Wellington portrait in 1961 created a national scandal that was only intensified when the culprit began to send ransom notes. However, rather than being part of some criminal masterplan, the purpose of the theft was in fact to raise money for the nation's elderly people, who Bunton -- the man accused of the theft -- claimed were being increasingly neglected by the state. There were no guns, threats, or violence in this heist. Just a kind, passionate, if somewhat infuriating man -- especially to his wife, Dorothy -- who put the interests of others ahead of his own.
In playing Bunton, seasoned actor Broadbent brings plenty of charisma to the role. His quips and one-liners, especially when he's in the dock accused of his crimes, are genuinely funny. He's a likable character, although you sympathize with Dorothy, who has become increasingly tired of her husband's antics over the years. However, beyond dishing out the odd scolding, Mirren is not given a great deal to do as Dorothy. The untimely death of their daughter hovers in the background, with Bunton coming to terms with his grief through writing, but Dorothy refusing to even discuss it. Yet these differing positions are not fully explored, which feels like an opportunity missed. A carefree way to spend 90 minutes, The Duke won't feel like a theft of any precious family viewing time.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the character of Kempton Bunton in The Duke. What were his motives? Did this make what he did OK? If so, why? Is it ever right to do wrong?
One of the themes of the movie is how we treat our elders. What can we do both as a society and as individuals to ensure people are looked after and don't feel lonely?
Discuss the character of Dorothy Bunton. How did she feel about her husband's antics? What was her overall role in the film? Do you think her character could have been more involved in the story?
Talk about the strong language in the movie. Did it seem necessary, or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?
- In theaters: July 26, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: July 26, 2022
- Cast: Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Fionn Whitehead
- Director: Roger Michell
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Activism, History
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Empathy, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and brief sexuality
- Last updated: September 4, 2022
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