Anatomy of a Fall parents guide

Anatomy of a Fall Parent Guide

Brilliant writing, skilled performances, and lots of ambiguity keep this overlong film tense and intriguing.

Overall C-

Theaters: After husband dies in a fall, Sandra is charged with murder. And the main witness is her son, Daniel.

Release date October 27, 2023

Violence C-
Sexual Content B-
Profanity D
Substance Use C

Why is Anatomy of a Fall rated R? The MPAA rated Anatomy of a Fall R for some language, sexual references, and violent images

Run Time: 152 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Sandra’s (Sandra Hüller) relationship with her husband, Samuel (Samuel Theis) has been increasingly rocky since the car accident that partially blinded their son, Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner). Now Samuel spends his time homeschooling Daniel or working on renovations to the mountain chalet they share while Sandra, a writer, works on her book. When Daniel finds Samuel dead on the ground under the third-floor window, Sandra is the first suspect – but might Samuel have jumped?

Lacking a definitive forensic answer, the case moves to trial, with Sandra as the accused, and Daniel as the star witness. Details soon emerge that paint a very different picture of his parents’ relationship than Daniel could imagine…but does that make his mother a murderer?

I’ll be honest, when I saw that this was going to be a two-and-a-half hour French dramatic thriller, I was expecting to watch the movie at around 1.5x speed just to save myself a little headache. Despite having that as an option, the film was so compelling that I forgot I’d even planned to use it until I was 45 minutes in, and by that point I was too invested. I’ll concede that the runtime might not be strictly necessary to the story, but the film manages to remain snappy and intriguing in spite of the added temporal bulk. It’s not easy to maintain subtle tension the way this movie does, and that’s down to skilled performances and brilliant writing.

Anatomy of a Fall isn’t a big flashy crime thriller. There’s no spectacle in the courtroom, no rising body count, no mysterious mafia connection – just a woman accused of murdering her husband. The film is as un-sensational as it can be, which grounds the emotional conflicts and tension. There isn’t even a musical score: any sound you hear is diegetic. This naturalism is immersive and exciting, without feeling pretentious. The film gives you a pack of matches and a lantern and sets you loose in a murky swamp of emotional ambiguity, providing few answers and raising more and more questions.

Of course, production quality is no guarantee of familial suitability, and in thrillers, it’s frequently a contraindication, if anything. Anatomy of a Fall is no exception, but it’s not as gruesome as you might expect for a film focused on either a murder or a suicide – depending on how you look at it. You see a brief interpretation of how either tragedy occurred, and a few shots of the corpse in question, but that’s about it for violence. Profanity is mostly limited to recordings of domestic arguments, and there is no drug use at all – just social drinking and smoking. This still isn’t going to be a good choice for children, but the runtime already told you that. It’s a slow, complex movie for an adult audience that doesn’t mind uncertainty and insinuation as tools of storytelling. Don’t expect all your answers to be delivered in a clever closing argument in the courtroom – you’re going to have to work harder than that.

Directed by Justine Triet. Starring Sandra Huller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado Graner. Running time: 152 minutes. Theatrical release October 27, 2023. Updated

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Anatomy of a Fall
Rating & Content Info

Why is Anatomy of a Fall rated R? Anatomy of a Fall is rated R by the MPAA for some language, sexual references, and violent images

Violence: A dead body is seen, along with some blood. Hypothetical depictions of suicide and murder are shown. A dog is non-fatally poisoned with aspirin. There are references to a car accident. A recording is heard which covers a domestic argument that turns into physical assault.
Sexual Content: A dead man’s posterior is briefly seen during forensic examination. A couple has a candid conversation about sex without graphic detail.
Profanity: There are 14 sexual expletives, nine scatological curses, and frequent use of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are frequently seen drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco.

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Other films with interpersonal relationships at the heart of a mysterious crime include Prisoners, Wind River, Reptile, Where the Crawdads Sing, Gone Girl, and Solace.