A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
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?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love true stories
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
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.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch