A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Free countries have problems. Oppressive countries have even more problems. Although Raymond faced racism in the United States, he felt freer there than in Russia.
Positive Role Models
The Russian colonel repeatedly lies and spouts political rhetoric and doublespeak. Raymond is angry about the way he was treated as a black man in the United States. He is just as angry about the repressive Soviet government. Friends risk their lives and privileged positions in Russia to help Nikolai get back to America. Russian friends who were left behind when Nikolai defected feel betrayed, as his departure subjected them to government pressure.
Violence & Scariness
A commercial airliner emergency crash lands in Russian territory. As a defector, Nikolai is terrified the authorities will capture him when they land. Nikolai falls as the plane touches down and his head is bloodied. Nikolai jumps from a great height as he executes a daring escape. Russian agents grab Ray's wife and hold her against her will. Two men fight. A choreographed dance routine shows "suicide" by hanging.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple embraces. Two people kiss briefly. A male dancer performs shirtless. Someone suggests that black men are "studs."
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"F--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bastard," "scum," "shut up." Someone raises his middle finger.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults smoke and drink, sometimes to drunkenness. It's implied that the only way to endure Soviet oppression is to consume great amounts of vodka.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that White Nights is a 1985 drama that recalls an era before the Soviet Union collapsed economically and became less of a military threat to the United States in the 1990s. Using a famous dancer as a political pawn, the plot illustrates the flaws in both societies. The Soviet practice of pressuring neighbors and friends to spy on each other is emphasized, and the movie comes out in favor of the relative freedom afforded Americans. Political sparring, actual physical fights, and a daring escape all rev up a high-tension plot. A commercial airliner emergency-crash-lands in Russian territory. Nikolai falls as the plane touches down and his head is bloodied. Profanity includes "s--t," "f--k," "a--hole," and "bastard." It's implied that the only way to endure Soviet oppression is to consume great amounts of vodka. Note that the first dance sequence features a choreographed "suicide" by hanging. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
For kids who knows nothing of the former Soviet Union's brutal practices, this is a well-made, dramatic, if simplistic, introduction to the open repression of Russia and its satellite countries. The representation of citizens being forced to spy on neighbors and friends in order to stay out of trouble with the government is accurate and frightening. Additionally, director Taylor Hackford lovingly features long dance performances by both Baryshnikov and Hines, two powerful screen presences. Again, for young audiences this offers an opportunity to see two masters of the past working near their peaks. Hines, Baryshnikov, and Twyla Tharp did the choreography. Pacing may at times seem slow by today's quick-cut editing standards, but there is plenty to appreciate here.
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.