Set in 1940, Darkest Hour tells the story of Winston Churchill’s (Gary Oldman) role as British Prime Minister and head of the war cabinet during the early stages of WWII. When the movie begins, Britain’s position is weakening under the leadership of Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), while the Nazis are becoming ever more powerful. The opposition Labour Party refuses to form a coalition with the Conservatives under Chamberlain, and the only man they’ll accept is Churchill.
Churchill wants to fight the Nazis, but he’s under great pressure from Chamberlain and Lord Halifax (Stephen Dilane) to enter into peace negotiations through Mussolini. Churchill has the support of his wife Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas), his extremely patient new secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) and, later on, King George V1 (Ben Mendelsohn). The British people are also behind him.
When Churchill becomes Prime Minister, 300 000 of Britain’s forces are stationed in Dunkirk, facing imminent elimination by the Nazis. Churchill controversially decides to create a diversion by staging an unwinnable attack on Calais and sacrificing 4000 men there. This saves most of the men in Dunkirk and cements Churchill’s position. He goes on to lead Britain to a great victory over Hitler.
Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
World War 11; appeasement; deliberate sacrifice of human lives
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.
Darkest Hour has some violence. For example:
- Churchill is a very intimidating character and often yells at people, including Elizabeth Layton and Lord Halifax.
- Some brief war scenes show bombs exploding and being dropped on Calais.
Content that may disturb children
Apart from the violence described above, there is nothing in Darkest Hour to disturb children in this age group.
Children in this age group might be disturbed by scenes showing soldiers injured and attached to drips in a field hospital. A close up shows a dead soldier with an open, staring eye.
Children in this age group might be disturbed by the situation of the men who are sacrificed in the unwinnable attack on Calais. This creates the diversion that allows the Dunkirk evacuation to take place.
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by the sacrifice of men described above.
Darkest Hour has some sexual references, including a reference to the fact that Churchill’s father ‘lost his mind to syphilis’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There is frequent use of substances in Darkest Hour. For example:
- Churchill drinks constantly from morning to night. He drinks spirits, champagne and so on, and this behaviour seems to have very few consequences.
- Churchill smokes cigars constantly.
- Other characters drink at home and at various events.
- Many characters, including the King, smoke.
- Chamberlain is shown taking morphine sulphate.
Nudity and sexual activity
Darkest Hour doesn’t show nudity as such, but there’s a scene in which Churchill warns Elizabeth that he is coming out of the bath naked and she runs and hides. Only his legs are shown.
None of concern
There is some coarse language and occasional name-calling in Darkest Hour.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Darkest Hour is a political drama about the period in which Churchill took office during WWII. It portrays Churchill as a man of great courage and oratory skill, who also wrestles with inner doubts.
The movie focuses on Churchill himself and the political manoeuvrings of the time, and it features very little action. It’s also about war and is quite long. For these reasons, Darkest Hour is likely to appeal more to teenagers and adults than to children, who will probably lose interest in the story. There are also some scenes that might scare young children.
The main messages from Darkest Hour are to stand up for what you believe in and to fight evil no matter what.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include courage, determination and steadfastness.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about what might have happened if Britain had gone down the path of making peace with Hitler.