Australian Council on Children and the Media

Little Women (2020)

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Not suitable under 7; parental guidance 7-9 (Sad themes including serious illness and death)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Little Women (2020)
  • a review of Little Women (2020) completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 January 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 7 Not suitable due to sad themes including serious illness and death. May lack interest for younger viewers.
Children aged 7–9 Parental Guidance recommended due to sad themes including serious illness and death.
Children aged 10 and over Ok for this age group.

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.

Name of movie: Little Women (2020)
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: Very mild themes
Length 135 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Little Women is based on the classic novel by Louisa M. Alcott which is set in Concord, Massachusetts during the American Civil War. The story is written by character Jo March (Saoirse Ronan), the second daughter of the March family. Mr March (Bob Odenkirk) has gone to fight for the Union and has left his wife (Laura Dern) to fend for herself and steer their four highly spirited daughters through these difficult times.

Jo has always enjoyed writing stories and plays, which she and her sisters love to perform. Meg (Emma Watson), the oldest, enjoys acting but is more serious than Jo, who is very headstrong and determined to make a life on her own. Their elderly Aunt March (Meryl Streep) tells Jo that she must marry but Jo has no desire to. She befriends Laurie (Timothee Chalamet), the grandson of their neighbour, Mr Laurence (Chris Cooper). Laurie falls in love with Jo but she is more interested in writing.

Jo’s younger sister Amy (Florence Pugh) is more pragmatic and knows that she must marry well. Amy accompanies Aunt March to Europe (much to Jo’s chagrin, as she had been promised this trip), where she finds Laurie in a sad state having been rejected by Jo. The two get together and Amy reveals she has always loved Laurie. Meanwhile the youngest sister Beth (Eliza Scanlen) falls very ill. Jo returns home, having been living and tutoring in New York, to comfort her sister. While in New York, Jo met Friedrich (Louis Garrel), a German professor who is highly critical of her writing. Naturally, Jo is very upset by this and when she leaves to go home Friedrich believes it’s because of him. He follows Jo to Concord in the hope of mending the relationship her.

Themesinfo

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.

The American Civil War; Sisterhood and rivalry; Family struggles, Serious illness and Death.

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:

  • Some play fighting between the girls - throwing pillows and rough tumbling.
  • Amy is strapped on the hand by her teacher (not shown) and is left with cuts on her hand. Amy says she wishes that he would die.
  • Jo and Amy fight - Jo calls her a baby and Amy throws a shoe at her.
  • Amy burns Jo’s manuscript.
  • Jo and Amy fight and punch each other.
  • Jo punches Laurie on the arm in a friendly way.
  • Jo and Friedrich verbally argue.

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:

  • Jo’s dress catches on fire.
  • Meg sprains her ankle at a dance.
  • Amy falls through ice while skating and has to be rescued by Laurie and Jo.

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:

  • A publisher tells Jo, if there’s a girl in the story make sure by the end she’s either married or dead.
  • Jo accidentally cuts Meg’s hair. She screams.
  • The March family visit a mother and her five children living in poverty. The children are dressed in rags and crying.
  • Mrs March tells them that Mr Laurence’s daughter died when she was young and now his son has died too.
  • Jo cries when she discovers that Amy has burnt her manuscript. Amy says it was the only way to really hurt her. Jo tells Amy that she hates her and will hate her forever.
  • Beth contracts Scarlet Fever from the poor family and nearly dies. She is bedridden for some days and looks sickly. This is quite a sad scene. Jo wakes and finds her not in bed and thinks she’s dead.

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.

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

  • A man seeking charity tells Mrs March that he had four sons, two of whom had been killed in the war, one had been imprisoned and one was sick.
  • Beth dies in the end which is very sad. Her mother and Jo cry. They attend a funeral for her.
  • Laurie says he’d rather hang himself than find someone other than Jo and that he’d rather be dead.

Over thirteeninfo

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.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Several characters kiss briefly including Meg and John, Amy and Laurie and Jo and Friedrich.

Use of substances

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

  • A man smokes a cigar.
  • There is drinking on many occasions: at home, in a pub, at a ball, at a wedding.
  • Laurie gets drunk on one occasion and stumbles over a chair.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Dammit.
  • Some name calling such as "pompous blowhard" and "idiot".

In a nutshell

Little Women is a remake of the classic film based on Louisa M. Alcott’s famous book. The cinematography is visually beautiful and with a stellar cast, the acting is very well done. It is true to the original story, however, it is told in a circular style beginning at the end and with flash backs and memories to fill in the gaps. Younger children may find this confusing. While there is nothing particularly scary, Little Women is a sad story at times and therefore is not suitable for children under 7 and parental guidance is recommended for children aged 7-9.

The main messages from this movie are to rise above adversity, to live your own life and the contributions that women make to life.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Selflessness
  • Long suffering and patience
  • Charity and kindness
  • Being a strong woman
  • To question current beliefs.

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

  • the differences in attitudes to women in the 19th Century to today. It was thought that women should always marry, that marriage was an economic proposition, women owned nothing and even their children ‘belonged’ to the father. Women’s rights have come a long way but there is still much to be done.

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