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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The King is a historical epic starring Timothée Chalamet as wild, rebellious young Prince Hal, who's suddenly thrust into ruling England as King Henry V. It's based both on history and on Shakespeare's "Henriad" plays (Henry V, Henry IV Part I, and Henry IV Part II), but much is imagined and changed. Henry's astonishing strategic Battle of Agincourt victory did happen, and, while it's certainly brutal, the violence is not without purpose. War isn't glamorized here: Through two key characters' eyes, the film shows the terror and chaos of soldiers in hand-to-hand combat in a sloppy, savage melee while wearing chain mail and armor. The movie hammers home a strong message of war's high human cost that even surviving soldiers must pay; there are also themes of courage and integrity. Other violent scenes include graphic on-screen beheadings and children dying and being forced to carry body parts. Expect a brief scene of sensuality and a couple of instances of strong language ("f--king"), including an insult to the king's manhood ("c--k," "balls").
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What's the story?
Adapted from Shakespeare's "Henriad" plays (Henry V, Henry IV Part I, and Henry IV Part II) but written in a more modern but still formal style, THE KING follows Hal, the Prince of Wales (Timothée Chalamet), who has disavowed his royal heritage, choosing to spend his days reveling and partying, Tudor style. But when his father dies shortly after his brother's death, Hal is unexpectedly crowned King Henry V. He intends to create a new day for England, one that will thrive in peace and find unity. But he must first contend with the late king's friends and foes.
Is it any good?
This outstanding historical epic boasts beautiful cinematography, strong performances, and a phenomenal battle scene. The luxe production design exists in a palette of gray, which implies that trouble is constantly brewing. The art design of each scene creates an authenticity that makes it feel like you're there -- particularly during the epic Battle of Agincourt. That attack sequence plays like Saving Private Ryan: Medieval Times. This isn't about elegant swordsmanship and proud, victorious cheers; rather, it's down and dirty, with punching, suffocating, drowning, and whatever-it-takes fighting, with bodies mashing up against each other like a murderous mosh pit. It's brutal, but it ultimately delivers understanding: You realize that this must be what it was truly like to fight in the 15th century.
The Shakespeare plays The King is based on aren't the ones usually assigned as required reading, so it may be difficult to get teens to watch -- but do try. While running a country at a young age isn't likely to happen to any viewers, by the movie's end, Hal learns a significant life lesson that today's kids can apply as they step into the workplace. Chalamet and co-star Joel Edgerton (who also co-wrote and produced) put in fantastic, believable performances, and those who grew up with Twilight will get a kick out of Robert Pattinson, who surprises with an unexpected twist on a French prince who delights at riling the young king into war.
Talk to your kids about ...
What do you think about the filmmakers' choice to scrap Shakespeare's dialogue for a more modern spoken style? What other changes are made to this ancient story? How does this film compare to other Shakespeare-inspired works with a modern-day spin, such as Romeo + Juliet or 10 Things I Hate About You?
Given his behavior at the beginning and end of the film, would you say Hal has integrity? Is there a point where you think he lost his way? There's a saying that "absolute power corrupts absolutely." How does this apply to Hal's father? Do you think Hal's behavior becomes corrupt?
What did you think of the shocking reveal at the end of The King? What could Hal have done to prevent being manipulated? Is there anything that applies to real life now?
- In theaters: October 11, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: November 1, 2019
- Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson
- Director: David Michod
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, History
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity
- Run time: 160 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some strong violence and language
- Last updated: May 12, 2021
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