To Olivia

Movie review by
Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media
To Olivia Movie Poster Image
Grief-stricken British drama has tragedy, drinking, smoking.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
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

Importance of communication and perseverance, especially when faced with tragedy, although these are lessons learned rather than presented from the start. The power of imagination. Jealously, turning to alcohol to deal with grief, and meanness are also displayed.

Positive Role Models

Roald Dahl, while loving toward his children, is also shown to be cruel and short-tempered, especially following a family tragedy. He withdraws from his family, finding solace in alcohol. He is also shown to be bitter and unsupportive of his wife. In contrast, Patricia refuses to ignore the tragedy; she is shown picking up the pieces, eventually returns to work, where she shows great determination to make the best of her opportunity. Despite their issues, the two do, at times, show a tenderness toward each other.

Violence

(Spoiler alert) The death of a child -- from measles -- occurs early in the movie. She is at first bed-stricken at home, before being transferred to hospital in an ambulance. Doctors are then seen frantically rushing around; a hospital curtain is drawn around the child. The death is then told over the phone. A couple regularly argue, insult one another. A spouse begins hitting their partner when they refuse to get out of bed. A parent raises their voice toward their child, shakes the child violently. While writing a book, an imaginary child appears before the author. Reference to a car accident almost killing a young child. A fire almost breaks out in a kitchen, creating smoke and distress. Movie scene rehearsal; the script refers to a character acting "rough" with another.

Sex

Some kissing and affection shown between a married couple. Kiss while filming a scene in a movie. Reference to an affair. Character becomes pregnant. A character makes a bet with someone that they can't leave a gathering with a Hollywood star, not knowing that the two are in fact married. Reference to actors being "nice to look at, but not much else."

Language

Includes "s--t," "crappy," "bloody," "sod that," "shut up," "dammit," "hell," "bloody hell," "Christ," "arse," "goddamn," "screw you," and "bastard." A character calls "God" a "sod."

Consumerism

Some sweet and chocolate brands are referenced and seen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking throughout. Characters drink regularly, at home and at social gatherings. One character drinks excessively alone and while writing. They are seen drunk -- stumbling and behaving erratically. Reference to the alcohol consumption is made on more than one occasion.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that To Olivia is a British drama based on the difficult marriage between kids author Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal, and contains family tragedy, drinking, and smoking. (Spoiler alert) Following the death of their seven-year-old daughter, Olivia -- from measles -- Dahl (Hugh Bonneville) and Neal's (Keeley Hawes) marriage suffers as they deal with their loss in different ways. Dahl begins to drink heavily -- often alone, while he tries to write his next book. The couple subsequently have heated arguments and insult one another. These arguments include language such as "s--t," "crappy," "bloody," "sod that," "shut up," "screw you," and "bastard." In one scene, Neal begins to hit Dahl when he refuses to get out of bed. Dahl himself raises his voice to one of his daughters and shakes her violently. As well as plenty of drinking, including Dahl being seen to be drunk on several occasions, characters smoke throughout. Though the movie is bleak in parts, it also teaches the importance of communication and perseverance when trying to overcome grief. Though younger viewers may enjoy spotting the references to some of Dahl's most loved books, the difficult subject matter may prove too tough a watch for some.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byStaceyOmoijade February 24, 2021
Kid, 11 years old February 28, 2021

Not too bad, without Hugh Bonneville it wouldn’t be worth it

It depends on how your child deals with sadness I think. The plot centres around a child’s death from measles. Dahl (her father) is struck quite badly by this a... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old February 19, 2021

This movie is too predictable for my liking.

I know that the add for To Olivia is like...OH!Don't worry its only a little bit sad the rest of it is happy happy happy happy. But its only happy for 5 m... Continue reading

What's the story?

In TO OLIVIA, when successful kids author Roald Dahl (Hugh Bonneville) and Hollywood actress Patricia Neal (Keeley Hawes) suffer a personal tragedy, their marriage begins to crumble. Will their grief drive them apart forever?

Is it any good?

Based on the difficult marriage between kids author Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal, and a terrible tragedy the couple suffered, this is a delicate look at the impact of grief. Central to the plot of To Olivia are (spoiler alert) the different ways that Dahl and Neal approach the loss of their oldest daughter, Olivia. Dahl shuts down, refusing to say his daughter's name, finding comfort in bottles of scotch that he drinks alone in his garden shed. Whereas Neal -- while partial to a drink herself -- conscious of the well-being of her remaining children, chastises her husband, before being offered a role in a new movie starring Paul Newman, causing further conflict between the couple.

Both Bonneville and Hawes are perfectly cast -- the former, in particular, passing more than a striking resemblance to the imposingly tall author. A difficult man, Dahl is a somewhat dislikable character, far removed from the man who brought kids such joy with the likes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the BFG. Yet while his shortcomings -- a temper, jealously, fondness for alcohol -- are all touched upon, they're never fully explored. The near fatal car accident of the couple's son (and subsequent rehabilitation) is mentioned only in passing, for example. It leaves the feeling that perhaps there was scope for a TV series, allowing more time to explore the two characters and what made them tick. But take this for what it is: a glimpse at a specific time in the couple's life, and a well-acted, moving portrayal of loss and grief.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how To Olivia deals with grief. How did Dahl and Neal deal with their grief differently? How did it impact their relationship? How did communication help them?

  • Talk about how the movie presents drinking and smoking. Did you think any of the characters drank too much? Are there consequences for what they do? How have attitudes toward smoking changed today compared to when the movie was set? Why is that?

  • Discuss the language used in the movie. Did it seem necessary, or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?

  • How many references to Roald Dahl stories did you spot?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate