The World to Come

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The World to Come Movie Poster Image
Women find love amid isolation in mature period drama.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

It's important to feel seen and valued for who you are, to be able to be your true self with someone. Companionship and connection are essential, especially in a lonely place. No socially driven stigma connected to the characters' romance; issue is more that they're both already married. 

Positive Role Models

Abigail and Tallie are intelligent, strong women who have sexual agency in a time that was unlikely to accept that. Their husbands are iffier: Dyer loves his wife but doesn't really know how to communicate with her, Finney is controlling and abusive. Cast members are all White.

Violence

Inferences of domestic abuse, including bruises on a woman's body and a bloody handkerchief/rag. A main character dies, presumably from illness, but implication is that there could be a more sinister explanation. A home is on fire with someone trapped inside. A couple loses their child to illness; very sad scenes. Farm animals are killed or die frequently. Story about killing a pet. 

Sex

Story revolves around passionate relationship/romance between two women who are already married to men. Breasts are shown during their passionate kissing/sex scenes. Non-graphic sex between a married couple. Masturbation. Man's naked backside is shown. 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine at dinner. Laudanum use, which, in the 19th century, was understood to be medicinal. A minor character smokes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The World to Come is a romantic drama set in the mid-1800s. Think of it as Little House on the Prairie: The Harsh Reality, with many details that show how hard farm life was in that era, especially for the farmer's wife. It's implied that farmers of the time viewed their wives as a type of property: A source of free labor and sex. But Abigail (Katherine Waterston, whom kids will know from The Fantastic Beasts movies) and Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) aren't "submitting to their husbands" much -- something the men aren't happy about. Instead, the women secretly connect with each other, leading to several scenes of passionate kissing, sensuality, and partial nudity (breasts). There are also non-graphic sex scenes between married couples, and a man's naked backside is seen. Domestic abuse is implied, a house is on fire with someone inside, a main character dies, animals are both slaughtered and frozen to death, and a couple is devastated by the loss of a child to illness. The movie's formal dialogue includes both infrequently used words ("asperity," anyone?) and old-fashioned phrases and speech patterns, which may turn off some teens. But for LGBTQ+ and feminist viewers, the story offers a compelling romance between two intelligent, strong women that will make you appreciate how far we've come. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPinar B. March 2, 2021
Teen, 15 years old Written byAlci February 26, 2021

A rating for a rated R movie

I think it's a really good movie for 16 years olds and older
Teen, 17 years old Written byfern101010101 February 16, 2021

it was ok

Not at all appropriate for anyone younger than 17-18. The film is well made in terms of script and setting. There is LGBT representation but one may find it lac... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE WORLD TO COME, Abigail (Katherine Waterston) is mired in grief after the loss of her young daughter to diphtheria. When she meets her vivacious new neighbor, Tallie (Vanessa Kirby), the farmers' wives quickly establish a connection that goes deeper than friendship. 

Is it any good?

The love that grows between Abigail and Tallie is the kind of love we all hope for, regardless of our gender or sexual identity -- which is one of the small miracles of this film. To call The World to Come a "lesbian period romance" would be an oversimplification. Abigail and Tallie don't live in a world where someone would fall in love with a member of their own sex -- the feelings they develop don't have any context or precedent. And so they don't feel like a same-sex relationship is taboo; instead, it's revelatory. As Abigail says, once the friends step over that line and admit their feelings, the adrenaline rush of knowing what it's like to love, be loved, be seen, and be appreciated can only be expressed as "astonishment and joy." They're truly soulmates, and for LGBTQ+ teens, their story may provide rewarding validation. 

The movie's other small miracle is how it transports viewers back to mid-1800s rural life. The elaborate production design is flawless, with painstaking accuracy in wardrobe, buildings, carts, and outdoor settings combining to establish the visual construct of a 19th century pioneering community. The way the characters speak -- both in their manner and in the matters they speak about -- also helps create this specific world, which makes viewers feel like they really understand what it would be like to be living there and then. That said, the characters' old-fashioned speech is both poetic and somewhat obtuse, creating a wall that some teens may not want to bother climbing. Combined with the quiet monotone voice-over that connects the scenes, Abigail and Tallie's story doesn't always feel as exciting as it is -- but it's worth sticking with for the wonder it projects onto how we would fare in such times and circumstances.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the era that The World to Come is set in. How does it suggest that women were viewed and treated then? How does that compare to today?

  • How does the movie handle the subject of sexuality and love? Can you imagine a world in which there are no preconceived judgments about what love "should" be? What would that be like?

  • Abigail's grief has turned into depression. Why is journaling often a recommended way to help someone process their feelings? Why is it important to be open about our mental health and ask for help?

  • Abigail and Tallie's relationship relies heavily on talking to each other. Why is communication such an important character strength?

  • This movie about women and the female gaze was written by a man but directed by a woman. Do you think it would have been different if it were written by a woman? O directed by a man? 

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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