Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 13+
Enthralling epic about 1900s Africa tackles mature subjects.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this engrossing period drama based on the biography of Danish baroness and her life in 1900s Africa offers lots of historical interest and sweeping romance, but tweens and younger may have trouble keeping interested through this long film. There’s no swearing and nudity, though the film certainly treads on mature subjects. There’s a marriage of convenience, and one character catches syphilis from her philandering husband, which renders her infertile but doesn’t destroy her. Some scenes depict animals being whipped; discussions about war hover over a section of the film; and there are a number of deaths to illness and accidents.
- Families can talk about the baroness’ marriage: Why did she enter such an agreement? Why did she put up with it? What about her relationship with Denys?
- What drew her to Africa? What kept her there?
- What do you think about the political and social structure at that time? Was it right for them to have enslaved the locals?
- How many historical movies can you think of where a woman is such a strong, independent character? Do you think these character traits were rare before women joined men in the workplace, for example, or even got the vote, or do you think they were just rarely depicted?
The good stuff
Positive messages: An imperialist theme permeates the movie, as befits its plot. This is Kenya in the early 1900s, when Europeans descended on the continent. Locals are treated like slaves, though one man makes it clear he doesn’t believe in this sense of entitlement. Women are seen as second-class citizens; for instance, one is given the cold shoulder when she enters a café/bar that forbids women entry. But she defies expectations and conventions, and evolved into a person who can stand on her own, through fear, change, and heartbreak.
Positive role models: Baroness Blixen stares many challenges in their face, and lives to tell the tale. After a steep learning curve, she learns to stand on her own, and ends up with a man who respects her but whom she learns she has to accept on his terms, too. Though she’s open-minded, Blixen and others are somewhat hobbled by the realities of the time period. She and a friend are a little shocked, for instance, by the romance that develops between a white man and a Somali woman.
What to watch for
Violence: Characters tote rifles, as appropriate for the time and the locale. They use them mostly for hunting. A woman shoots a bird and it’s shown getting hit and falling from the sky. Animals are flogged. Lions feast on cattle. A person slaps another. Hunters stalk lions with guns as one feasts on the carcass of a deer; they both hit one apiece.
Sexy stuff: A woman talks about having lovers; at one point, she’s involved with two brothers. A new husband takes the arrangement a little too lightly, flirting with a woman at his wedding. The couple is shown snuggling under a blanket, ostensibly naked though only their bare shoulders hint at what has transpired. Later, she catches a sexually transmitted disease, syphilis, from him after he is unfaithful. After being cured, she takes up with another man, with whom she’s very affectionate. (We see them kiss but not much else).
Language: Not an issue
Consumerism: In the beginning, one character appears very attached to her belongings; she name-drops the brand, Limoges.
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Characters imbibe whiskey and wine.