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The Mountain Between Us
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Mountain Between Us, based on Charles Martin's novel of the same name, tells the story of two strangers (Idris Elba and Kate Winslet) stuck in the snowy wilderness after a tragic plane crash. Expect scenes of mountain trek peril, but there's no graphic violence. (Spoiler alert!) Post-plane-crash injuries are shown, there's some danger to a dog, and one character's leg is caught in a bear trap. A sensual sex scene includes kissing, moaning, and near-nudity, and a shirtless man is shown more than once. The primary concern for younger viewers will be tension/worry over whether the main characters (including the dog) can survive. But it's not exactly a nail-biter, and the characters -- who exhibit courage and perseverance -- never really show any realistic effects of weeks of deprivation, making it a fairly "safe" experience, as survival stories go.
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What's the story?
In THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US, a doctor named Ben (Idris Elba) and a photojournalist named Alex (Kate Winslet) survive a plane crash, only to find themselves injured and stranded in the high mountain wilderness. Along with a trusty dog, Alex and Ben use their intelligence and grit to try to reach civilization through a cold and hazardous environment. And despite her impending marriage and his mysterious past, the pair find themselves drawn to each other during their ordeal.
Is it any good?
This romantic drama is most compelling as a mild story of survival adventure. Contemporary romances often stumble over the first hurdle: Their dramatic obstacle. In this age of global communications and (presumed) enlightenment, what is there to keep true lovers apart? As the title implies, The Mountain Between Us comes with a fair-sized obstacle built in: The titular mountain, in winter, as the protagonists survive a plane crash atop it and struggle to descend it to civilization. So in this case, the apparent obstacle is actually what brings them together, sort of like Titanic, which also starred Winslet. Here, she plays plucky photojournalist Alex, opposite Elba as ingenious but calm neurosurgeon Ben. Alex's active nature is the catalyst to keep things moving, which is something, because otherwise the movie plays like Ben saving them, over and over.
Alex and Ben's struggle is interesting because survival stories are, by nature, interesting and because Winslet and Elba are excellent actors. They absolutely carry the movie, keeping the stakes high and the dangers real, even when the filmmaking tends toward the unfortunately sanitized. This isn't a gritty or harrowing experience à la Alive or The Grey. Physical and emotional realities are brushed aside in favor of a budding romance. Why, for instance, do we not see the effects of wind, snow, sun exposure, and starvation on Alex and Ben's faces and bodies as their ordeal stretches over a month? His ribs are broken, but he does a heck of a lot of stuff that would be difficult for a perfectly healthy, well-nourished person. And as even-keeled as they may be, Alex and Ben's language seems downright polite for folks facing what they think is certain death. Director Hany Abu-Assad (two-time Oscar nominee for Paradise Now and Omar) does bravura work in the plane crash scene, which is presented as one continuous take. But when the characters aren't in danger of dying, their story tends toward schmaltz. Without an actual mountain between them (and survival), the obstacles keeping them apart lose their potency – and so does the film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why they think the filmmakers of The Mountain Between Us chose not to show the realistically gritty side of the characters' extreme situation. Would showing the characters starving and in conflict have made their romance harder to believe?
Were you surprised at the direction Alex and Ben's relationship took during their ordeal? What would you have done differently in their situation?
- In theaters: October 6, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: December 26, 2017
- Cast: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Dermot Mulroney
- Director: Hany Abu-Assad
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language
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