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 cryptic, complicated sci-fi epic probably won't be on most kids' must-see lists. The tricky plot unfolds simultaneously in the 16th, 21st, and 26th centuries and is sometimes slow to reveal itself, so younger viewers might get bored. There are some bloody killings (with spears, guns, and swords) and a brief sequence showing torture during the Spanish Inquisition. The science fiction scenes are sometimes abstract (a spaceship shaped like a sphere), while the present-day laboratory scenes show surgery on a monkey's brain. A bathtub sex scene is passionate and moving, though not explicit. Some strong language.
What's the story?
Elaborately plotted across time and space, THE FOUNTAIN follows the undying love between a man and woman over three different eras. In 2006, a scientist named Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman) and his wife, Izzi (Rachel Weisz), struggle with her brain cancer. Though Izzi, a historian and writer, has come to terms with her situation, Tommy works furiously to discover a cure. The film follows two other romances (also acted by Jackman and Weisz). 16th-century conquistador Tomas seeks the Fountain of Youth on a mission for Spain's Queen Isabel. In a Mayan temple, Tomas faces a soldier with a flaming sword, as well as his own doubts. (Meanwhile, Izzi tells Tommy about a "dying star" named Xibalba that represented rebirth for ancient Mayans). In the third story, 26th-century explorer Tom is drawn to a beatific specter who repeats the phrase "finish it" as a way of inviting him to join her in the faith of eternal love. And yet the film suggests that the very concept of "finishing" must give way to cycles and renewals, as indicated by repeated images of passageways and circles.
Is it any good?
Director Darren Aronofsky's movie is ambitious, even epic, in its scope. Digital effects depict Tommy and Izzi's relationship in terms that are both extremely intimate (they communicate even when they're not in the same space) and abstract (their interests in life and death and rebirth beyond their own experiences take them back and forward in time).
The Fountain's intricate themes integrate images and ideas from Judeo-Christian, Mayan, and Buddhist traditions, linking them in ways that seem "universal." That said, the film also offers up a gallant, compassionate, and heroic white male -- the variations on Tommy -- as its center. It even posits him as the "First Father," so named by the Mayan warrior. In seeking connections between belief and hope, the film overlooks differences within social hierarchies. Still, its aspirations -- to bring individuals and cultures together -- are admirable. The love story at its heart makes this much clear.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of eternal life. What would it be like to live forever? How do different religions offer different versions of eternal life, either "after death" or in some other form? Do you think that the similarities between different religious beliefs could ever help communities and individuals work together, rather than lead to competition and war? How does Tommy seek to redeem himself as he tries to save Izzie? What makes this film a science fiction movie?
- In theaters: November 22, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: May 15, 2007
- Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz
- Director: Darren Aronofsky
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some intense sequences of violent action, some sensuality and language.
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