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There Will Be Blood
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that most teens probably won't be clamoring to see this slow-moving, somber drama about mature, sometimes abstract themes like capitalism and religion as driving forces in 19th- and early 20th-century America. Violence includes mining and oil well accidents (explosions, flames, a couple of deaths), several fights (hitting and kicking), and a shooting (abrupt and disturbing). The blood referenced in the title comes at the end of the movie, during a protracted, brutal struggle. Some drinking and smoking; language includes "hell" and damn."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Based on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel, Oil!, THERE WILL BE BLOOD follows the life of self-described oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) from his earliest days as a miner to his later years as a wealthy, lonely misanthrope. Along the way, he informally adopts H.W. (Dillon Freasier), whom he loves in a strange, desperate way that leads to distress when H.W. eventually grows away from him. Daniel's other primary interaction is with Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), a self-styled preacher who resents Daniel's governance of the land he's bought from Eli's California neighbors. Their conflict increases as each believes himself best suited to organize the community.
Is it any good?
Set against the movie's stark landscape and brilliant orchestration by Jonny Greenwood, the conflict between Daniel and Eli turns simultaneously explosive and subterranean. They embody the forces that shape American culture -- specifically, capitalism and religion. Neither man is "complete," and each feels betrayed by someone introduced as his brother -- in Eli's case, his missing twin, and in Daniel's, the sudden appearance of Henry Brands (Kevin J. O'Connor), who shows up late in the film claiming to be Daniel's half-brother. Even as Daniel and Eli's plots go in different directions, both underline loss and pain that lead to bad decisions and violence.
Beyond the emotional sparks between Eli and Daniel, the film offers stunning visual compositions set against gorgeous desert and wide skies. Following an early oil rig accident, flames appear to leap behind a stoic Daniel as he gazes on his fortune -- one that will both make and ruin him. Subtle exchanges between father and son are built on shared glances that are at once knowing, intimate, and skeptical. This relationship is increasingly complicated, partly by H.W.'s friendship with Eli's sister, and partly by Daniel's increasing rage at the world. At the film's end, there is blood, sticky and odious -- but most effectively, there is also H.W., terrified, trusting, and enduring.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's messages. Is there a clearly defined "good guy" or "bad guy"? Do characters that offer a mix of both qualities more accurately reflect real life? If so, why do you think TV shows and movies don't feature characters like that more often? How are Daniel and Eli both alike and at odds?
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