A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It's hard to find positive messages in a movie about marital issues, adultery, and obsessive love, but there is one very important take-away: Women shouldn't stay in relationships where they're physically abused.
Positive Role Models
The only positive role model is Evgeni, who's helpful and kind to Wally, even though they barely know each other. Despite their legendary romance, it's hard to call Wallis and Edward positive role models, since they have an adulterous affair without regard for Wallis' husband Ernest. Wally's husband William, who's also having an affair, lies to and beats her, while Wally seems too obsessed with the life of Wallis Simpson to change her own until the very end.
Violence & Scariness
There's a disturbing amount of domestic abuse in the story. Wallis is severely beaten by her first husband; she's kicked so hard that she miscarries (blood is shown pooling around her naked body). Wally's husband also beats her after a fight escalates into physical abuse. Wallis slaps Wally.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The movie opens with a bath scene in which viewers see a character's breasts. A few love scenes show lots of skin, but no additional shots of sensitive body parts. Wallis and Wally often strip down to their bras and panties or chemises.
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Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "f--king," "bulls--t," and (rarely) "c--t." Insults include "common," "trollop," "adulteress," etc.
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Products & Purchases
Luxury brands such as Cartier, Jaguar, Chanel No. 5, Burberry, and Sotheby's, which is one of the movie's main settings.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In both the '30s and the '90s, the characters chain-smoke cigarettes. Wallis and Edward are rarely seen without a cocktail or champagne in hand, and much is made about her legendary drinks. In one scene, Wallis and Edward drop Benzedrine into champagne and then act high. Evgeni also smokes, and he and Wally have vodka. Several dinner parties have lots of drinking. Wally takes fertility drugs, which she injects herself with throughout most of the movie.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Madonna's directorial debut tackles some mature issues that aren't appropriate for younger teens. There's considerable marital abuse; the two main female characters both have husbands who strike them viciously, and in one case the physical abuse leads to a bloody miscarriage. There's nearly full-frontal nudity in a brief bath scene, plus several love scenes (though no additional graphic nudity) and shots of the two main actresses wearing only underwear/lingerie. Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t." Despite W.E.'s adult themes, it does have one important message: Never stay in an abusive relationship. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a superficial albeit "pretty" movie about a fascinating love story; it's too bad a better director didn't tackle it. Madonna (who makes her directorial debut with this film) has been very vocal about how personal this project was to her. She became fascinated with the story of Wallis Simpson while herself the divorced American wife of a well-known Englishman in the spotlight, director Guy Ritchie. It's obvious that she's sympathetic toward the American socialite whom the king loved so much that he was willing to abdicate the throne. But W.E.'s contrived framing device (it seems far-fetched that a young married woman would be so single-mindedly obsessed with the Wallis-Edward love affair) and the forced parallels between the two Wallises' lives don't hold up; instead, the movie becomes a two-hour excuse to star at beautiful locations and designs.
In the film, Mrs. Simpson and the king are certainly the more compelling of the two W.E. couples; Riseborough is so enchanting as the stylish but not particularly beautiful Wallis that it's obvious why Edward was so taken with her. Madonna glosses over the unsavory parts of the royal affair, shutting down the long-held rumors that the two were Nazi sympathizers and focusing on the whirlwind romance and how it affected not just the king but Simpson, who was forced to deal with being the most reviled woman in the British Empire, if not the world. As charming as Cornish and Isaac are, the contemporary romance can't compare, and young Wally seems pathetic compared to Wallis until the very end.
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.