Story

Great Expectations is the latest version of the classic novel by Charles Dickens. On a visit to his father’s grave, 10-year-old Pip (Toby Irvine and, as an adult, Jeremy Irvine) meets the escaped convict Magwitch (Ralph Fiennes), who threatens and terrifies him. Magwitch is desperately hungry, and Pip shows great kindness and brings him food and drink. The convict is later found and taken away, but the memory stays with Pip.

Pip was orphaned as a young child and spends his childhood growing up with his cruel older sister and her gentle husband Joe (Jason Flemyng). Pip and Joe love each other a lot, and Joe guides him as he grows. After an invitation to the house of wealthy spinster Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter), Pip meets the young Estella (Helena Barlow and, as an adult, Holiday Grainger) and falls hopelessly in love. He wants her to love him back, so he dreams of one day becoming a gentleman rather than a blacksmith like Joe.

Years later an unexpected visitor arrives to see Pip at the forge, where he is working with Joe. Solicitor Mr Jaggers (Robbie Coltrane) has an offer from an unknown benefactor, who wants to make Pip a gentleman.

Themes

Cruelty to children; being an orphan; death and serious illness; crime, including murder

Violence

This movie has some violence. For example:

  • Pip is approached by a convict who is covered in mud. The convict grabs Pip unexpectedly and says that if Pip does not bring him food, he will eat Pip’s liver.
  • The young Pip is treated cruelly in a few scenes. He is grabbed by his ear, his head is dunked into a bucket, and he is whipped.
  • Two prisoners fight violently. One man hits the other man over the head with a rock.
  • A man thinks someone is stealing from his home. He grabs him and punches him.
  • A woman strangles another woman, who is shown dead and blue.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • Miss Havisham’s mansion is dark and menacing and could be quite frightening for children in this age group.
  • Miss Havisham is accidently set alight and is shown on fire. Pip tries to save her but he can’t. The scene shows the burned and charred Miss Havisham moaning as she dies.
  • A man is crushed by a paddle steamer. 

From 5-8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • The casts of dead men’s faces are seen and discussed.
  • As a little girl, Estella is left by her parents (who are convicted criminals) and sent to live with Miss Havisham. The scene is quite emotional, and Estella is scared.
  • A man is seen dead after a struggle with illness. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by several of the scenes mentioned above. 

Over 13

Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. 

Sexual references

None of concern 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Men and women drink liquor and wine. At times, they seem to be drunk and get rowdy and aggressive.
  • A few of the men throughout the movie, including Pip as an adult, smoke cigarettes or pipes. 

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie shows some kissing between adults. 

Product placement

None of concern 

Coarse language

None of concern 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Great Expectations is the latest movie version of one of Charles Dickens’ darker novels – a story about a young man’s journey from poverty to wealth and the consequences of this social shift.

The main messages from this movie are about how wealth changes your social standing, but at the expense of important values such as compassion, decency, love and honour.

Although your children might read this book in the upper primary or early high school years, you should be aware that the movie is likely to have a bigger impact and has several violent and scary scenes and characters. The scenes involving the convict Magwitch, the treatment of Pip as a child, and the death of Miss Havisham in a fire are likely to be particularly disturbing for children under 14 years. The movie is therefore more suited to older teenagers and adults.

If you have older children, you could talk about the following issues with them:

  • How did wealth and social standing affect people’s lives and choices in the 19th century?
  • How does the death of Pip’s parents when he was only six years old affect him?