Parental Guidance

How Family-Friendly Is The Light Between Oceans?

by | September 2, 2016 | Comments

The big movie this week is a weepie with a handful of awards-caliber stars, but it’s a melodrama with some heavy themes. Read on to see if it might all be a bit much for your little ones.



The Light Between Oceans (2016) 62%

Rating: PG-13, for thematic material and some sexual content.

If you’re in the mood for a heavy-duty, emotionally cathartic romantic drama, The Light Between Oceans is for you. Derek Cianfrance’s adaptation of the M.L. Stedman novel follows the tumultuous relationship between a stoic lighthouse keeper (Michael Fassbender) and his vivacious, young wife (Alicia Vikander) living on a remote island off the coast of Western Australia just after World War I. While they are initially happy, their attempts at starting a family end in two miscarriages. But when an infant washes ashore in a small boat after a storm – along with her deceased father – the couple believes they’ve received one last shot at happiness. Clearly, it can’t be that easy, though. The Light Between Oceans deals with the mature themes of birth and death, guilt and truth. Vikander’s character is understandably devastated by her loss both physically and psychologically, but she’s also the one to pressure her husband into lying and pretending the baby is theirs. There are a couple of brief sex scenes, although they feature barely any nudity. And toward the end, the baby – now a 5-year-old girl – goes missing and appears to be in danger. But this is a beautifully shot, strongly acted film that’s probably suitable for viewers around 13 and older.



The Jungle Book (2016) 94%

Rating: PG, for some sequences of scary action and peril.

Kids around 6 and older will be just fine watching Jon Favreau’s live-action take on The Jungle Book. In fact, they’ll love it – it’s a visual wonder. If you saw it during its theatrical run, you know this was a rare example of a film that really is worth the extra cost for 3-D: The images are lush, vivid and immersive. But the movie as a whole is also just a lot of fun, with thrilling action sequences, delightful musical numbers and lively performances from a strong cast. You know the story: It’s Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Man-cub Mowgli (played by excellent newcomer Neel Sethi) struggles to find his place in the world amid a variety of animals — wolves, panthers, bears, tigers, snakes — as he grows into a young man. The excellent voice cast includes Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, and Idris Elba. But much of the action could be too intense for young viewers, such as the brutal brawls between the panther who protects him and the tiger who’s trying to kill him. Wildfires devastate much of the jungle. Mowgli is pretty much in constant peril. And there is a significant character death. I took my son (who was then 6 ½) to a screening, and while he didn’t find anything frightening, kids who are sensitive to that kind of intense danger might.

Me Before You (2016) 54%

Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements and some suggestive material.

Emilia Clarke is the ultimate manic pixie dream girl in this sweet but soapy adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ novel. She stars as a young woman in a small, British town who accepts a job as the caretaker for a formerly high-flying, risk-taking rich boy (Sam Claflin) who’s now paralyzed and in a wheelchair after being hit by a motorcycle. With her brightly colored tights, wacky vintage dresses and generally sunny demeanor, she naturally wears down this miserable man’s defenses. But even though the two share plenty of adventures (and eventually a romance – not exactly a spoiler), he still doesn’t feel life is worth living in this manner. Me Before You deals directly with the heavy, complicated subject of assisted suicide. It also features some drinking, plenty of language and the suggestion of sex. I’d say this is fine for viewers around 11 and older.