East-West parents guide

East-West Parent Guide

Overall B

After World War II, Stalin began a propaganda campaign welcoming Russians who had emigrated to come back and help rebuild their homeland.

Release date September 1, 1999

Violence C+
Sexual Content C+
Profanity B+
Substance Use B

Why is East-West rated PG-13? The MPAA rated East-West PG-13 for violence and brief sensuality.

Run Time: 121 minutes

Parent Movie Review

After World War II, Stalin began a propaganda campaign welcoming Russians who had emigrated to come back and help rebuild their homeland. Thousands accepted the invitation, only to find themselves the objects of Stalin’s cruel revenge, being executed or to enduring lives of hell.

East-West - Official site East-West explores this period of history by following the fictitious lives of Alexei (Oleg Menchikov), a Russian physician practicing in France, his French wife Marie (Sandrine Bonnaire) and their son who decide to return. Moments after their opulent ship docks on Russian soil, they realize their monumental mistake. With fellow passengers herded into groups and one shot when he attempts to flee, all that saves Alexei is the state’s dire need for doctors. Marie is not as lucky. Only able to speak French, she is physically punished and accused of being a spy.

East-West - Official site Alexei begs to keep his wife, but must pay a price. Assigned to operate an infirmary for a textile factory in Kiev, he and his family live in a tiny communal flat with prying neighbors, all of whom could be police informants. Alexei seems able to cope with the situation, but Marie’s constant and vocal yearning for freedom puts them all at risk. Eventually this stress, and Alexei’s decision to please the political powers (i.e. his female boss and the apartment supervisor) with sexual favors in an attempt to protect his wife, whom he claims to dearly love, breaks the marriage apart.

Marie, still looking for any way out, finds hope when she provides lodging to a 17-year-old swimmer named Sacha (Serguei Bodrov Jr.) who has the opportunity to participate in a competition in Vienna—possibly allowing both of them to “swim” to freedom.

East-West - Official site Aside from a short intimate scene without nudity between Marie and Sacha, none of the couple’s sexual exploits are detailed visually in this dark and drab subtitled movie (the dialogue is mainly French). Nor does East-West focus on physical torture except for those mentioned in the opening scenes. Instead the story builds suspense by plunging into the uncertain intentions of the characters, rarely giving the adult audience a chance to take a breath, although teen viewers may not find this approach very engaging.

With noted European cast members (including Catherine Deneuve playing a French actress on tour in Russia) there is no lack of talent on the screen. And any accusations that writer/director Regis Wargnier is being too melodramatic because of his black hat and trench coat attired “bad commies” and imposing Cold War musical score, would be overshadowed by the cold truth of Stalin’s manipulation tactics.

Starring Sandrine Bonnaire. Running time: 121 minutes. Theatrical release September 1, 1999. Updated

East-West Parents' Guide

What price would you pay for freedom?

In order to protect his wife, Alexei decides to commit adultery. Was this action justified? His lack of fidelity contributes to the marriage’s failure. Would facing the punishment have been a better choice? Were there any other alternatives?

Was Marie’s relationship with the 17 year-old Sacha justifiable?

Are there occasions today where people may be sexually blackmailed, such as abusive relationships where a sexual relationship is continued in an attempt to protect someone else? Are there any alternatives for these situations?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

People’s reactions to communism have been a popular theme in a variety of films. Check our reviews of the family classic The Sound Of Music , or the silly Beautician And The Beast . Life Is Beautiful , and Jakob The Liar , look at the subject far more seriously. The Saint turns it into an action thriller, while the animated Anastasia takes a sentimental look at Russia’s political turning point.