Parents' Guide to

The Human Stain

By Nell Minow, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Flawed adaptation of Roth's novel isn't for kids.

Movie R 2003 107 minutes
The Human Stain Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 1 parent review

age 17+

A Near Perfect Film

I honestly can not think of a single thing wrong with this movie. The actors are top rate actors that consistently turn in exceptional performances. This movie is no exception. The plot is intriguing. The pasts of the main protagonists unfold, making their characters exceptionally deep. We get to see these characters evolve in interesting and compelling ways. There are shades-of-grey in these characters. We don't have the perfect hero. We have gentle people with kind hearts who make mistakes. The direction is perfectly understated. There is a lot of nuance in the way the scenes are filmed and the way in which the actors are framed. The love scenes are filmed without graphic nudity. Note the way in which Anthony Hopkins places his hands on Nicole Kidman's back. It is so loving and tender and intimate. Even the editing is right on. The length of the film, at 106 minutes, is the perfect length. There are no wasted scenes. Some of the material is hard to watch. Note the posture and the facial expression on Anthony Hopkins in the kitchen scene in which Nicole Kidman is giving him a hard time. It is subtle and painful to watch. If you are into light-hearted escapist film, this isn't for you. The subject matter is deep and difficult. I like these kinds of movies and this one is one of the best in class. Kudos to all involved with this film.

This title has:

Too much sex
Too much swearing

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1):
Kids say: Not yet rated

THE HUMAN STAIN is a flawed but engrossing story about the way that people try to escape their pasts. It's also about the way that carefully constructed new personas, no matter how scrubbed and burnished, can't erase the stain of the original. Philip Roth's ambitious and literary novel is awkwardly adapted for the screen. The book's almost allegorical structure is supported by Roth's use of language, but on screen, the characters are more plot devices than people. Zuckerman, though well-played by Sinise, is a narrative convention who adds nothing to the drama. And the menace provided by Faunia's Vietnam veteran ex-husband borders on melodrama.

The most affecting part of the story is the flashbacks. Young Coleman (Wentworth Miller), in love for the first time with a beautiful, intelligent, and sympathetic Midwestern girl (Jacinda Barrett), experiments with the feeling of being not black or white but just free of any color. Then he brings her home to meet his mother (Anna Deavere Smith), not letting either one know ahead of time that they're of different races. Nothing that happens in the Hopkins/Kidman segment of the story is anywhere near as compelling.

Movie Details

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