Brideshead Revisited

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Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 due to themes, sexual activity and nudity.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Brideshead Revisited
  • a review of Brideshead Revisited completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 23 October 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended. The film lacks interest for this age group and includes adult themes, nudity and sexual activity.
Children 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and sexual activity.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Brideshead Revisited
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild sexual references, themes and nudity
Length: 133 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Based on Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel, Brideshead Revisited follows the story of Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) an aspiring artist who leaves his modest home and indifferent father to study history at Oxford. There he is befriended by Sebastian Flyte (Ben Wishaw) a wealthy homosexual who uses alcohol to ease his conscience. Sebastian invites Charles to spend the summer with him at Brideshead, the lavish estate where he lives with his mother the pious Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson), his sister Julia (Hayley Atwell) and brother Bridley (Ed Stoppard) all of whom are deeply religious Roman Catholics. Despite the fact that Charles is a self proclaimed atheist, they are charmed by him and encourage him to “look after” Sebastian.

Charles is dazzled by the beauty of Brideshead and also by Julia whom he adores. Although Julia is captivated by Charles she refuses to go against her mother’s wishes and instead marries a Catholic man whom she does not love. Charles leaves broken-hearted. Sebastian too is broken-hearted as he realizes that Charles cannot love him the way that he desires and he begins to drink more heavily.
Charles goes on with his painting and enters a loveless marriage. It is four years before he associates with the family again. Eventually Lady Marchmain approaches him and begs him to help her find Sebastian who has disappeared in Morocco. Charles discovers Sebastian convalescing in a hospital, where the ravages of alcoholism have taken their toll. Sebastian remains in Morocco and his mother dies without seeing him again.

Charles spends two years painting in the jungles of South America and returns to England as a celebrated artist. On a ship he encounters Julia and after a whirlwind affair they decide to run way together. Charles promises to settle things with her husband and they return to Brideshead where the religious atmosphere casts a shadow over their love and slowly destroys it.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Homosexuality; alcoholism; adultery; religion

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • a scuffle in the streets of Morocco

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  •  At a masked party Julia is whisked away by people wearing creepy masks. She tries to get free from them but can’t and Charles chases her through the shadowy tunnels. He finds her and she is fine, but the masked people may be disturbing to younger viewers.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Julia is at her father’s bedside when the priest offers the last rites and is with him when he dies.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A friend of Sebastian speaks to a crowd of people about rape and sodomizing.
  • Charles suggests that Julia’s husband has not been faithful

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Sebastian and Charles kiss each other
  • Sebastian kisses other men
  • Sebastian and Charles go swimming together naked – back view only
  • Julia finds them standing naked beside some bushes– back view only
  • Sebastian rises out of his bath naked
  • Charles paints a nude woman
  • There is a sex scene between Charles and Julia that includes them both kissing and getting undressed. Julia’s breasts are almost fully exposed when she is on top of him. Together they move up and down, roll on the floor and kiss passionately.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • extremely frequent use of wine, champagne and all manner of alcoholic beverages. The alcohol is served at home, in pubs, at parties, on boats, at picnics, at meals, from hip flasks, etc.
  • towards the middle of the film Sebastian appears to be perpetually drunk
  • frequent smoking

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • “What the hell are you doing here?”

In a nutshell

Brideshead Revisited is a slow paced, drama featuring some beautiful locations that will appeal to mature audiences and fans of the book. Children are likely to find it extremely dull.

The main messages from this movie are to be true to yourself, to beware of greed and that love, while precious, is also painful.
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • faithfulness, friendship, helpfulness and honesty

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • the effects of alcoholism, not only on an individual but on an entire family
  • forcing your beliefs, religious or otherwise, on other people