The Happy Prince

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
The Happy Prince Movie Poster Image
Sex, language in drama about Oscar Wilde's last days.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 2+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Fine examples of loyalty and support, but also abandonment and betrayal, including main character's decision to turn his back on his sons to continue an affair.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character, a post-prison Oscar Wilde, keeps his wits, spirits up (mostly). But he never does find his feet as a writer again -- perhaps largely from lack of trying. Though he mostly keeps his spirit up, his legendary wit intact through decline, it's a decline nonetheless: slow and painful. But his true friends stay just that: true friends. 

Violence

Fistfight. People are menaced with violence because one is known to be gay. A crowd comes and verbally harasses --- and then spits on -- a man because he is gay.

Sex

Male nudity, mostly from the rear, with brief frontal glimpses; all in sexual situations. Sexuality/sexual identity is a major theme (specifically, homosexuality and its then-criminal and social penalties). A sex party is shown, though not graphically. Sexual situations include a character's apparently regular encounter with a teenage male prostitute.

Language

Occasional strong language, including multiple uses of "f--k" and homophobic slurs.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Much drinking, especially absinthe, and frequently to excess. Smoking everywhere. Drug use referred to, especially cocaine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Happy Prince is a biographical drama about writer Oscar Wilde's post-prison days and his subsequent decline in Paris. Rupert Everett, starring in a role his fans have long waited for him to play, also writes and directs. Language isn't constant but includes multiple uses of "f--k" and homophobic slurs. There's lots of drinking (especially absinthe), often to excess; period-accurate smoking; and some drug use. There's also male nudity, mostly from behind (though also brief frontal glimpses), and a number of sexual situations, including regular encounters with a teenage male prostitute. Characters are harassed and threatened with violence due to their homosexuality. Colin Firth and Emily Watson co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAlexandra Johnson October 6, 2018

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In THE HAPPY PRINCE, the great Irish writer Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett) has fallen on hard times since serving his two-year prison sentence for homosexuality. He's briefly buoyed by the generosity of friends like Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) and Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), but he jeopardizes his fortunes by reuniting with his love, Alfred "Bosie" Douglas (Colin Morgan). After their final separation, Wilde declines, destitute and unwilling -- or unable -- to work, in Paris.

Is it any good?

This biographical drama feels lived in and profound as it jumps around in Wilde's memories and feelings. The Happy Prince isn't a standard biopic. It focuses tightly on the brief, final period of Wilde's life, long after his greatest works were produced. It moves around in time. It makes no effort to lionize its subject. It's a dark, ugly situation, but -- as you might expect -- it's buoyed somewhat by Wilde's legendary wit. Some lines are appropriately lifted from his life ("I'm in mortal combat with this wallpaper," he tells a visiting friend, from what would turn out to be his deathbed: "One of us must go."). Others were added by Everett in his debut as a writer-director (he says to his estranged lover, whose father was responsible for Wilde's incarceration, "Let's talk about more cheerful things. Your father's death, for instance.").

Wilde is a role that Everett's fans have long been eager for him to play on screen, though perhaps not at this stage of decrepitude (he previously tackled Wilde on stage in 2014's heralded The Judas Kiss). The English actor is much transformed to become the deteriorating, bloated, fractured Wilde. (His portrayal is one that Wilde himself might have called a heroism of no other attractive options.) The so-mightily fallen writer keeps his wits and spirit about him, for the most part, as his world crumbles. Among the supporting cast, Thomas distinguishes himself as Wilde's loyal friend, Robbie; his concern and unrequited love for Wilde are palpable. And Everett directs with remarkable confidence from his carefully considered script. The movie's title comes from one of Wilde's children's stories, cleverly selected as an occasional touchstone for the film. He narrates the tale in pieces throughout the film, an odd mix of beautiful and terrible images, only revealing its true meaning -- and its symbolic comment on Wilde's own fate -- in the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the homophobia in The Happy Prince. Did you know that, until relatively recently, it was illegal to be gay in Britain? How did the film's depiction of Wilde's public shunning and taunting affect you?

  • Did this strike you as a standard biopic? If not, how was it different? Was the tight focus on one period of Wilde's life helpful, or did you expect more of his life to be covered?

  • How does the film depict drinking and drug use? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • By choosing to continue his affair, Wilde not only turned his back on his wife and income but also on his children. Why do you think he did this?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate