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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Violence & Scariness
Intense and painful family situations, murder, shooting, drug use, suicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexual references and situations, including predatory sex with foster parent.
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Some strong language for a PG-13.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Alcohol and drug use.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie includes brutality of a modern-era Dickensian quality. Astrid is seduced by one foster parent and shot by another. A third commits suicide. Astrid is subjected to physical and emotional abuse. Ingrid murders her lover. There are non-explicit sexual situations and references. Characters drink, smoke, and use drugs. Characters use strong language and mock religious faith. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Even Michelle Pfeiffer's exquisite performance and the powerhouse appearances by Robin Wright Penn and newcomer Alison Lohman can't keep the endless series of tragedies from melodrama. WHITE OLEANDER is adapted from a book with language both vivid and lyrical that made the terrible events more epic than sordid. The movie tries to achieve the same standard, going for prestige drama over soap opera.
A Jungian analysis might suggest that the story is a metaphor for the inevitable separation in all mother-daughter relations. All of the mother figures -- Ingrid, the foster moms, and the social worker -- are like one mother splintered into many extreme versions, as though reflected through a prism. All children find their mother to be many things, from the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving figure of their earliest memories to the extremely demanding and ultimately rejecting caricature she can appear to a teenager struggling to know herself.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
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