Parents' Guide to

The Professor and the Madman

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Surprising history of dictionary packs compassion, violence.

Movie NR 2019 124 minutes
The Professor and the Madman Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 6 parent reviews

age 18+

"If love, then what" (quote from movie)

In the movie there is a widow who says "If love then what. Her husband was murdered and the movie is about a professor and a madman (doctor) whom with each other's help, are putting together the Oxford English Dictionary. It's an IRONIC quote or riddle as the 2 main men characters are supposed to be knowledgeable about English words - the irony is that the word that belongs in or finished the widow's quite mystifies them (is a mystery). There is only 1 word that can really complete or give meaning to the quote and solve the mystery of what the widow was trying to say and meant. That word is: FORGIVENESS It was very clever how the writer and movie maker had the widow's mysterious quoted question in the movie "If love, then what" in a movie about words and their meanings as the origins of creating a dictionary. Most people have heard the saying: " To Love Is To Forgive " The answer to the widow's mysterious written question " IF LOVE, THEN WHAT " is the word: FORGIVENESS Then the whole quote would become solved as: " IF LOVE, THEN FORGIVEN3SS" Submitted by movie watcher Ms Richards on 4/18/2021

This title has:

Great role models
age 12+

special rating

amazing story actors deserve 10 stars hard working is valued in this movie positive message human actions are taken I love it love it

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (6 ):
Kids say (2 ):

Despite the fact that both the star/producer and the director have disavowed it, this isn't a bad film; it's beautifully shot and sensationally acted, and it tells a fascinating real-life story. It must be challenging to make something cerebral -- the quest to find and identify word origins -- into something exciting, so the initial focus of The Professor and the Madman is more on the enormity of the task. While teens have likely never thought about how the dictionary was created, most have faced moments of having to tackle an overwhelming assignment, and the film may set an example for them: Ask for help, divide it into smaller tasks, and conquer. It also may be useful to see that, while Murray's employers wanted him to take shortcuts so he'd move faster, he insisted on the work's integrity, thoroughness, and accuracy.

Perhaps that's where The Professor and the Madman went south: Director Farhad Sahinia (who removed his name from the credits) and star/producer Gibson weren't allowed to shoot additional scenes, and they insist that the movie is incomplete. We'll have to trust them on that, but what remains is solidly interesting. It's no easy feat to turn a mentally unstable man who shot and killed an innocent father of six into a sympathetic hero. Penn's vulnerable, enigmatic portrayal of Minor is focused in his vacant but pained eyes. Giving more depth to his humanity are the interactions with Murray and Natalie Dormer's Eliza Merrett. The story we're watching may be set in the past, but with mental illness on the rise (or at least increased diagnosis and awareness), the message that society shouldn't abandon or ridicule the afflicted couldn't be more timely.

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