A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
King Lear operates like a Greek tragedy, where personal flaws are punished with suffering and death, and innocence is also punished with suffering and death. The positive messages come from characters atoning for their wrongdoings with suffering and death. So, they're not very fun positive messages.
Positive Role Models
The heroic characters in Lear are those who remain loyal to their fathers or father-figures despite being grievously wronged: specifically, Kent, Edgar, and Cordelia. Just about every other character is traitorous and hubristic.
Violence & Scariness
This version of Lear includes threats of gun violence, a torture scene, a man getting his eyes gouged out, a fistfight to the death, fatal poisonings, and an execution by hanging.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexual relationships are implied but never seen.
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Some archaic bad language, such as "whoreson."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lear drinks from a flask with his friends. There's casual drinking, but no smoking and no drugs.
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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.
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.
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.