This is a film to watch WITH YOUR CHILD, so you can discuss interesting or intense issues as you go. It is a beautiful film which captures the dramatic changes of ancient, imperial China, through its brief turn-of-Century Republic days, into mid-Century Communist life. I chose it to make history more real to my 13 year old, so she could see & feel the opulence (rooms decorated ceiling to floor with gold and red, ladies similarly adorned), grandeur, and incredible slavish obedience to one person who is God-on-Earth solely for luck of birth. It is chock-full of teaching moments! Yes, a young child breast-feeds his wet-nurse, but the world-wide average wage of weaning is 4 years old, so TALK ABOUT IT with your child (cultural norms, why was he attached to her as mother, why was his real mother stolen from him??). Some issues were too violent for my family, but I simply did not bring it up (like the fact of 100's of eunichs- I did not point it out as i did not wish to expose my daughter to the horror of how these boys were mutilated).
Much of the politics will go over your child's head, so I recommend you review your study of the politics and cultural issues of the time yourself: British cultural & political invasion to China, intentional addiction of the Chinese to opium, the deep reverence boys & men held for their ponytails & why it's so dramatic that Yi Pu cut off his; the lack of any choice in the face of obedience to custom, the role of (and options available to) women & girls (wife, slave, servant, courtesan). There are so many RICH TEACHING MOMENTS in this film.
HOWEVER, STRONG VIOLENCE is present in the scene where a gun is placed to the temple of the male prisoner (blood & gore gushing from his head). I did NOT let my child view that scene. The lesbian sex scene involves opium and toe-sucking: for my family, it's a teaching moment about the seductiveness of drugs, need to be wary of other's motives, and how easy it is to ruin one's life by using (see the end of First Wife's story). You might choose to skip that scene. All in all, a beautiful film and, in my opinion, great for older tweens (12ish) and up, IF you watch with them (and skip over any scenes that don't work for your family). Older teens should be fine- you know your child best!