The White Crow

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The White Crow Movie Poster Image
Deeply unsympathetic Nureyev biopic has graphic nudity.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 127 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Excellence is achieved through hard work, but also (according to what we see here) through lack of kindness and respect for others. It's unclear whether the movie finds these qualities tolerable or even admirable.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The real Rudolf Nureyev may be a hero to ballet enthusiasts and other dancers, but this movie paints a deeply unsympathetic portrait of him, portraying his bullying and arrogance along with his craft.


A woman explains that her boyfriend died in a car crash. Rude behavior, shouting, arguing. Injured leg. In a flashback, a man goes hunting and holds a rifle (no shooting).


Full-frontal male nudity. Partial nude male bottom. Main character has more than one partner (both male and female). Men sleep naked together (nothing explicit shown). A woman caresses a man's crotch area, moving his hand under her dress to her breast. A woman drops her robe; her naked legs are shown. Women dance and sing at a club while wearing costumes that have holes cut out for their breasts and buttocks.


Three uses of "f--k." Also uses of "ass" and "shut up."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes throughout. Social drinking. A woman says she's been taking Valium.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The White Crow is a biopic that focuses on the early life of Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko), up to his defection in 1961. It's a deeply unsympathetic portrait, portraying the dancer as an arrogant bully who's constantly talking about his own greatness. Expect strong sexual material: Nureyev is shown with both female and male partners, there's full-frontal male nudity, and characters lie in bed together, naked. A woman seduces a man by rubbing his crotch area and then placing his hand under her dress, on her breast. Women at a nightclub wear costumes with holes cut out for their breasts and buttocks. Language includes a quick outburst of three "f--ks," but little else. Casual/social drinking and smoking are shown throughout, and Valium is mentioned. A gun is shown in a flashback but not fired, a man is said to have died in a car crash, and there's shouting and arguing.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byzendima August 11, 2019

One of the best about one of the best

If you are prepared for an emotional rollercoaster, you have to watch it.
It goes deep to show you only a small part about one of the great dancers, his time, h... Continue reading
Parent of a 8-year-old Written by[email protected] April 28, 2019
Kid, 12 years old July 31, 2019

A Great Movie!

This movie is great for most ages, but there is a little bit of nudity but nothing too crazy. It's about young Rudolf Nureyev becoming a top ballet dancer... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE WHITE CROW, Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) travels to Paris in 1961 to perform with his troupe. He delights in everything Paris has to offer, and he continues to study and to strive for perfection in his art. In flashbacks, viewers learn of his stark childhood and troubled beginnings as a dancer. We also learn of his complex relationships with teacher Alexander Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes), Pushkin's wife (Chulpan Khamatova), and his friend Clara Saint (Adele Exarchopoulos). As Nureyev's time in Paris comes to an end, he's told that he must return to Russia, rather than go on with his troupe to London. He resists and faces a tough decision. Will he defect and risk never seeing his mother again?

Is it any good?

Except maybe for dance fans, it's unclear what, exactly, viewers are supposed to make of this portrait of a deeply unpleasant man whose talent is more spoken of than displayed. Fiennes, who also directed the film, goes to great pains to place an actual dancer (Ivenko) in the starring role, but he then spends the majority of the movie gazing upon his star's face and listening to him talk about how great he is and how famous he's going to be, rather than actually watching him dance. Worse, The White Crow doesn't even begin to try to help non-ballet fans understand what it is about these particular dance moves that makes Nureyev so great.

Written by acclaimed playwright David Hare (The Hours, The Reader), the film takes place in three time periods: Nureyev's childhood (these sequences are in black-and-white), 1955 Leningrad, and 1961 Paris. The latter two tend to blur together, so it becomes confusing to tell precisely where we are in the story, especially because no other characters really come to life. Every other character in the story exists only in relation to Nureyev, and most of them kowtow to him. Finally, while Fiennes' performance as Pushkin is interesting, his direction relies heavily on shaky cam, which seems to be the exact opposite of a graceful art like the ballet. Perhaps viewers who already know a great deal about Nureyev will get something from The White Crow, but newcomers needn't bother.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The White Crow depicts sex. How does the fact that Nureyev has multiple partners affect your view of him? What values are imparted?

  • How are alcohol and smoking portrayed? Are they accurate for the time period? Are they glamorized?

  • Is Nureyev a bully? He may not pick on people physically, but would his behavior qualify as bullying? Why do (or don't) you think so?

  • How does the movie show the art of the ballet? Is it just for ballet fans, or does it do a good job of explaining things to newcomers?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dance and true stories

Themes & Topics

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