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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that King Lear is a film of one of Shakespeare's greatest and toughest plays that stars Anthony Hopkins in the title role. The amazing cast makes the Elizabethan text accessible and contemporary, and director Richard Eyre does an excellent job of telling the story visually. The film is set in modern London, but it is a heavily-militarized London. As the film progresses, France and England go to war, and there are other violent incidents, including torture and murder. Beyond that, there is little objectionable material for younger viewers, though the subject matter can feel very heavy at times. King Lear would be an excellent introduction to Shakespeare or Lear for those who might feel alienated by his dense language and complex plotting.
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What's the story?
KING LEAR (Anthony Hopkins) -- a powerful ruler in a militarized, modern London -- gathers his three daughters and tells them he has decided to divide his kingdom and riches among them, but first they must each tell him how much they love him. Lear's older daughters, Regan (Emily Watson) and Goneril (Emma Thompson), lavish him with praise. His youngest, Cordelia (Florence Pugh), refuses to flatter him. Offended, Lear banishes Cordelia from his kingdom and divides his wealth among his two eldest daughters, beginning a chain of events that leads to madness, war, and murder.
Is it any good?
This excellent adaptation stars a world class wrecking crew of British actors, who avoid any sort of Elizabethan affectation and do an incredible job of making one of Shakespeare's toughest, plays into something accessible and delightful. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Shakespeare's writing can feel intimidating or alienating to a lot of people. Sometimes it feels like there's a way Shakespeare is "supposed to be performed," which reinforces the sort of stuffy, unrelatable, impenetrable air it already gives off. But occasionally, an adaptation of Shakespeare's work comes along that treats his seemingly-sacred texts as contemporary -- films like Ian McKellen's Richard III, Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, or Richard Burton's Hamlet. This King Lear can now be added to that list.
Director Richard Eyre sets the tale in modern London, and supports the actors with strong, easy to follow visual storytelling. There's nothing particularly flashy about it (like, say, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet), but King Lear is rich and compelling -- an all-too-rare feat when it comes to one of the greatest writers of all time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Lear's journey. Where did he begin? Where does he end up? How do his actions in the beginning of King Lear pave the way for his suffering throughout the film? What does he learn from his struggles?
What is the significance of the character of Edmund, the bastard? What are his motivations? Do they change throughout King Lear?
Who are the heroes in this story? Who are the villains? How can you tell the difference?
For kids who love Shakespeare
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