A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film features its fair share of both gore and sex, although the slow pace of the film keeps either from being overwhelming. There is full-frontal female nudity, a case of adultery, a finger is sliced off, and a sandstorm temporarily strands people in the desert. In addition, there are bloody injuries, bombs, explosions, two plane crashes, and several deaths. There is also substance abuse of both alcohol and morphine.
What's the story?
In the tradition of grand movie romances, THE ENGLISH PATIENT follows the story of an amnesic World War II burn victim (Ralph Fiennes) as his memories slowly return. In an Allied hospital, the heavily-bandaged patient (whose only identifier is his English accent) is cared for by nurse Hana (Juliette Binoche), who is drawn to the mystery man. Amidst the war-time violence, Hana tries to bring the man out of his catatonic state, and soon present events trigger the patient to recall his dangerous past, and the love he found and lost, in the North African desert.
Is it any good?
Despite Oscar wins and high praise, THE ENGLISH PATIENT requires a certain type of viewer to appreciate its plot. There are copious flashbacks, and the often dark story unfolds slowly. Based on a novel, the film suffers from a simultaneous lack and abundance of detail. Some scenes fail to further the plot, while others need more explanation. The film could go in a million directions, but it floats through the material to arrive at an unfulfilling ending. All of this, however, is easy to overlook because the film is so visually stunning.
The supporting cast is brilliant – Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas in particular give excellent performances, and Colin Firth leaves an indelible mark. Ralph Fiennes imparts to his character a distinct emotional distance, which works well to establish the character, but makes it hard for him to gain the viewer's sympathy, or even explain how another character falls in love with him.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about issues surrounding the physical and emotional consequences of war. What are the different responses that the characters have to death, and how do they change? What happens when convictions are treated as the truth? How is adultery portrayed in the film? What are the ramifications of adultery in the film and what might they be in real life?
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