The Invisible Circus

Movie review by
Ellen MacKay, Common Sense Media
The Invisible Circus Movie Poster Image
Okay for older teens, but nothing special.
  • R
  • 2001
  • 94 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Few characters of color appear.


A terrorist act goes awry and kills a man. A girl throws herself off a cliff. We see Faith contend with the fatal consequences of her political act. Phoebe drops acid and becomes disoriented.


A glimpse of a topless woman. When teenaged Phoebe has sex with Wolf, we see her bare breasts.


Consistent with the "R" rating: moderate to extreme profanity.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug and cigarette use. The main character takes LSD.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know there is graphic sexual content and drug use in the movie. The teenaged Phoebe has sex with the much older ex-lover of her sister. Phoebe has a nasty acid trip. Some mature themes you may want to discuss with your teen: Terrorism, political commitment, young love, independence, accidental death, loss of a parent, suicide.

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What's the story?

It's 1977, and 18-year old Phoebe decides to uncover the truth about her sister Faith's mysterious death. So she heads to Europe (where the tragedy occurred) and eventually meets Faith's former boyfriend (Christopher Eccleston). As the story unfolds, Phoebe discovers that Faith (Cameron Diaz) was involved in an anarchist movement before accidentally precipitating a man's death (an event that pushed her literally over the edge).

Is it any good?

The Invisible Circus takes a pretty dim view of '60s politics, but it still can't help nostalgically portraying the period as the lost era of enlightenment. The movie seems more interested in leaving the idealistic myth of the Age of Aquarius intact, and so the explanation for Faith's tragic death becomes increasingly tangential to the story. Instead, the movie focuses on Phoebe's growing sexual interest in her sister's onetime love, which turns a political thriller into an adolescent love story.


Because the film has two disconnected narratives--Faith's story, told in flashbacks, and Phoebe's story from six years later---it lacks the drive that would make up for its plot weaknesses. Just when one plot gets going, it's interrupted to make time for the other.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the political and social issues associated with the 1960s.

Movie details

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