The Special Relationship

Movie review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Special Relationship Movie Poster Image
Insightful political docudrama touches mature subjects.
  • NR
  • 2010
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series highlights the unique political loyalty the two world leaders had for each other during their leadership. It also underscores the fact that this loyalty is primarily politically (and not personally) motivated.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While the leadership of both men is presented in a positive light, President Clinton’s lack of honesty and Blair’s sometimes underhanded political tactics are also discussed.

Violence

Contains real-life footage of violence that took place during their leadership, including bloody protests and explosions in Northern Ireland, and images of genocide victims in Kosovo.

Sex

Clinton’s extramarital affairs are prominently discussed. Contains references to the size of men’s genitalia and sexual acts. Male cast members are sometimes shown shirtless; female cast members are sometimes shown in modest undergarments.

Language

Words like “piss,” “bitch,” “s--t,” and “f--k” are audible.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Consumption of wine, champagne, and other alcoholic beverages is visible during meals and receptions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this docudrama chronicles the political relationship between President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair during the eight years the Clinton was in office. The former president’s criminal investigation into his extramarital affairs is a major theme, as are the violent events that took place in Northern Ireland and Kosovo during that time (news footage of the violence is visible). The movie also contains some strong words like “bulls--t” and “f--k." It isn't intended for kids, but it will appeal to teens and adults with an interest in history and/or politics.

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What's the story?

THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP explores the unique bond between President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair during Clinton's tenure in the White House. When Blair (Michael Sheen) runs for prime minister in 1992, he meets with Clinton (Dennis Quaid) and his staff for advice on getting elected. Over the years the two powerful world leaders look to each other for guidance and support during events like the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and the criminal investigation of Clinton’s extramarital behaviors. While efforts to ensure their political survival leads to some politically turbulent moments, the two manage to maintain their powerful alliance. The drama also offers some insight into the behind the scenes impact British advisors like Alastair Campbell (Mark Bazeley) and Jonathan Powell (Adam Godley) had on the prime minister, and the different expectations their respective countries had for their first ladies (played by Hope Davis and Helen McCrory).

Is it any good?

Most kids probably won’t be interested thanks to the talky nature of it, but fans of good docudramas and political buffs will definitely find it worth watching. This TV movie offers a dramatic interpretation of the way the British prime minister negotiated his relationship with President Clinton to strengthen his domestic and international political standing. It also highlights some of the major problems this sometimes-controversial relationship created, and offers some explanation for the loyal political alliance the two charismatic leaders enjoyed during the 1990s. While one may question the accuracy of some of the more intimate scenes featured here, the movie clearly relies on enough factual information and archived news footage to create a strong sense of reality throughout.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about politics. Political leaders often create alliances with people they do not like personally, but who can be helpful politically. What are the advantages and disadvantages of these kinds of relationships? Does this kind of alliance-building happen in other scenarios, like school or work?

  • The relationship between President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair has been recorded in history as both powerful and loyal. Can you think of any other world leaders who have also shared this kind of alliance over the years? What has history taught us about the significance of these alliances?

  • Are Clinton and Blair role models? How do you balance their good work with their personal failings? Is there an expectation that political leaders will be flawless, or always flawed?

Movie details

For kids who love learning about real people

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