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The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote Movie Poster Image
Gilliam's dark, challenging, but fantastic Quixote movie.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 132 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

No clear messages, but movie might lead parents and teens back to Cervantes' original book, which is rich with themes and points for discussion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No role models here. Toby does learn some lessons -- that his actions have consequences, etc. -- but his final takeaway isn't necessarily positive. Other characters are delusional or corrupt.

Violence

Characters are shot and killed. A character is strangled. Blood spurt/bloody wounds. Main character attacks a cop car with a lance. Dueling horsemen. A woman's body shown covered with bruises. A woman is kept as a man's slave (she licks spilled food from his boot). Monsters are stabbed with a sword; blood spurts. Characters are knocked out a window (fatally), hit with a blunt object, punched in the face, knocked unconscious, hit in the face with a door. A character crushes a glass in his hand; blood dribbles down. A character flays himself with rose thorns (blood shown). A woman uses electric prod on dogs and a man. Village on fire. Pretend swordfighting/swordplay. Dead animal corpses (maggots, etc.). Some nightmarish, surreal imagery.

Sex

Unsuccessful seduction. Kissing, undressing, some foreplay. One character touches and hugs another, flirting and dancing. A man ogles a woman's cleavage. A man touches a woman's bottom as he helps her onto a horse. Woman shown in bra.

Language

Many uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Also "bastard," "ass," "son of a bitch," "d--k," "pr--k," "hell," "Jesus," "Christ's sake."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main character drinks alone (holds a glass while next to an open bottle). Social drinking. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is Terry Gilliam's long-dreamed-of project finally come to fruition after decades of trying. It's a bizarre movie that's hard to pin down, but it's essentially a dark fantasy adventure with comic touches, making it great for Gilliam's fans and those who know a little about Don Quixote but a challenge for others. Expect scenes of strong violence, including guns and shooting, deaths, fighting, stabbing, strangling, and hitting with blunt objects. A woman is kept as a slave; she's shown covered in bruises and is forced to lick spilled food from a man's boot. Some blood is shown, and dead animal corpses are seen. Characters kiss, and a woman unsuccessfully tries to seduce a man, partly undressing. There's also some ogling, flirting, and grabbing. Language is very strong, with multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Characters drink socially, or, briefly, alone, and there's some smoking. Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce star. 

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What's the story?

In THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE, filmmaker Toby Grisoni (Adam Driver) is in Spain shooting a commercial that involves the literary characters Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. After a bad day on the set, a gypsy sells him a DVD that turns out to be Toby's own black-and-white student film from 10 years earlier. He discovers that their location isn't far from where he shot that film and goes searching for his one-time leading lady, Angelica (Joana Ribeiro). Instead, he discovers his old Quixote (Jonathan Pryce), who's now convinced that he's the real thing and has become a tourist attraction. Quixote escapes and, convinced that Toby is Sancho Panza, takes Toby along, searching for adventures. Before long, the lines between reality and fantasy start to blur.

Is it any good?

Terry Gilliam's long-dreamed-of project finally comes to light in this great, long, wandering, bizarre, fantastic movie. It's filled with personal signature touches yet still honors author Miguel de Cervantes. Truthfully, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote probably isn't for casual viewers; it's almost essential to have some knowledge of the original book, as well as some idea of the nature of Gilliam's work. But viewers who appreciated the wild, visionary madness of Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus will feel right at home here.

Gilliam vividly tunes into Cervantes' complex themes, such as a denouncement of reality and an embracing of lost values, as well as a keen awareness of modernism. The director coats these and other ideas with new cinematic layers. The movie is funny and tragic, playful and dark, hopefully romantic and heartbreaking, all at the same time. It's also frantic, difficult to nail down, and without purchase. It's like crazy dreams and hallucinations banging around with snippets of reality. Driver does his best to anchor everything, but, understandably, his character goes a little nutty in reaction to everything happening around him. But it's great to see Pryce back with Gilliam -- they made Brazil together -- and as such a lovable Quixote. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is a challenge, but it's one that's very much worth the effort.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Man Who Killed Don Quixote's violence. How strong is it? Does it provoke laughter or shock? How does the movie achieve this?

  • What did you learn about the characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza from the movie? Did it inspire you to read the original book or do further research?

  • Why do you think Don Quixote is such an enduring character? What does he have to say to us today?

  • Why did it take so long for Gilliam to make this movie? What obstacles did he overcome to finally finish it?

  • How does the movie view women? Do they need to be rescued?

Movie details

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