Dead Poets Society Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
Inspirational teachers with innovative ideas are the basis for numerous films including To Sir With Love and Stand and Deliver. Yet, what happens when those novel teaching methods arouse aspirations contrary to the ingrained traditions of an exclusive prep academy?
Schooled in the rote recital of rudimentary facts, the students in Mr. Keating’s (Robin Williams) class are not only surprised by, but also uncomfortable with the freethinking approach of their new English teacher. Believing literature brings beauty and romance to an otherwise mundane existence, he challenges the boys to experience poetry from a personal perspective rather than simply assigning it a value dependent upon the appraisals of others.
After an uneasy start to the semester where the young men are encouraged to deface their textbooks and stand on their desks, the pupils relax and their teacher’s infectious carpe diem (seize the day) attitude begins to affect more than their in-class activities. Of their own initiative, the boys reinstate a secret club known as the Dead Poets Society. Sneaking out of the dorms to meet in an old cave, they recite poetry to one another. Eventually they also take up smoking pipes and looking at centerfolds.
Individually, the boys also change. Stifled by the rigid demands of his dad (Kurtwood Smith), Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) risks his father’s wrath and tries out for a part in a local play in order to pursue an acting dream. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), the painfully shy, younger brother of a former class valedictorian, finds his own identity separate from his familial fame. Urged on by one another, the club members each start to explore their world in a new way.
However, the school’s administrators are increasingly apprehensive about Mr. Keating’s style and the whispered rumors of the club’s existence. When a suicide stuns the campus, they initiate a manhunt for the society’s participants.
Mr. Keating’s unusual approach to the arts and his encouragement for individual contribution is a message to motivate teens and young adults. Still, the extended buildup to the suicide and boys’ reactions to the event need to be considered before parents bring this film home. As well, the sweeping portrayal of teachers and parents as uncaring, negligent or overly demanding, also warrants discussion.
Although the well-meaning educator is forced to add a cautionary note to his counsel after one student causes uproar on campus, his philosophy does arm his students with the insight to look beyond the traditional approach to poetry. From that vantage point, they, along with teen viewers, may also gain a broader perspective on how to live life.Directed by Peter Weir. Starring Robert Williams, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Robert Sean Leonard. Running time: 128 minutes. Theatrical release June 1, 1989. Updated July 17, 2017
Dead Poets Society
Rating & Content Info
Why is Dead Poets Society rated PG? Dead Poets Society is rated PG by the MPAA
Discipline and rigid rules are part of the atmosphere at the boarding school. Still the boys manage to smoke and occasionally drink in the dorms and the cave. Adult are also shown smoking on several occasions. Despite the “Boys Only” policy, they sneak a pair of girls to a club meeting. The boys briefly discuss sex and make some sexually suggestive comments. Teens drink and kiss passionately at an unsupervised house party. A couple of fist fights result in bloody noses and one student receives a beating with a wooden paddle after breaking school rules. Although the suicide is not shown, viewers hear the shot and see part of the dead body. Traditional values and teaching methods at the school are depicted as outdated and restrictive. Numerous profanities and some terms of Deity are also included in the script.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
Dead Poets Society Parents' Guide
Although a character chooses suicide, what other options could he have considered? What effect does his death have on others?
What does Mr. Keating imply when he asks the students to contribute their own verse to life? What does it mean to find your own voice?
Why can it be difficult to maintain individual beliefs in the face of others? What exercises does the teacher use to illustrate this?
Is Mr. Keating a pied piper, leading the students into trouble, or a radical thinker opening their minds? Do his ideas help the boys to think for themselves, or are they merely substituting his ideals for those of their parents and former teachers? How can parents and children find balance between their individual dreams and the hopes and expectations of others?
The most recent home video release of Dead Poets Society movie is January 16, 2012. Here are some details…
Blu-ray Notes: Dead Poets Society
Release Date: 17 January 2012
Dead Poets Society releases to Blu-ray with the following bonus extras:
- Dead Poets: A Look Back (featuring interview footage with Director Peter Weir, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and many others)
- Raw Takes
- Master of Sound: Alan Splet (Interviews with David Lynch And Peter Weir)
- Cinematography Master Class (Intensive and inspirational lighting workshop with Cinematographer John Seale)
- Audio Commentary with Director Peter Weir, Cinematographer John Seale and Writer Tom Schulman
- Theatrical Trailer
DVD Notes: Dead Poets Society (1989)
DVD Release Date: 10 January 2006
If you are a fan of this film, you will want to remember to carpe diem—or at least seize the opportunity to look for this Special Edition DVD release of Dead Poets Society. Included in the bonus extras are a collection of uncut and/or deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer and the featurette Dead Poets (which offers a look back at the making of the film with director Peter Weir, as well as new interview footage with actors Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, and many others). As well, you can have a film school experience by listening to the commentary of director Peter Weir and his writing/cinematography team, or watching Master of Sound: Alan Splet (featuring new interviews with David Lynch and Peter Weir) and Cinematography Master Class (cinematographer John Seale conducts an intensive and inspirational lighting workshop). Audio tracks are available in English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and French.