Robert the Bruce Parent Guide
Digital on Demand: This historical Scottish film is better than Braveheart, but that's a pretty low bar to clear.
Parent Movie Review
After the death of William Wallace in 1305, the fight for Scottish independence from England has fallen into disarray. Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfayden) hopes to reunite the nation after his coronation as King of Scots, but internal conflict with John Comyn (Jared Harris) threatens to derail him before he takes the throne. Following a series of catastrophic defeats, Robert disbands his army and wanders into the wilderness, disheartened, confused, and pursued by bounty hunters who would turn him in to the English. But when he stumbles across Morag (Anna Hutchinson) and her family, Robert is reintroduced to some of the people he has been fighting for all along, which bolsters his resolve to fight the English.
Historical films are a mixed bag. On one hand, is a movie like 12 Years a Slave, which is a largely faithful recreation of a well-documented autobiography. On the other hand, you have Braveheart, which is not only riddled with violence, profanity, and sexual content, but is largely ahistorical. You also wind up dealing with Mel Gibson’s on-again-off-again Scottish accent. So where does Robert the Bruce fit on that scale?
Well it is, mercifully, not Braveheart, although it is a semi-sequel, with Angus Macfayden reprising his role as Robert the Bruce from that film. But that’s a very low bar to clear, and Robert the Bruce certainly could have aimed higher. While the historical accuracy is, at least in things like set design and timeline, a touch better, the plot is also a lot less exciting. Focusing on the difficult winter of 1306-07, in which Robert’s whereabouts are largely unknown to historians, the filmmakers have opted to have him spend nearly the entire time sitting in a family cabin and moping while recovering from an arrow wound.
I appreciate that they’re aiming for a more humanized personal story, but it doesn’t work since none of the characters are terribly interesting to start with. The script flails about, hitting clichés and nonsense with equal frequency. Some scenes just seem to end without having justified their existence in the first place. This is all especially frustrating, considering that the film ends at the hugely significant Battle of Bannockburn, in which the Scots finally decisively removed the English armies from Scotland. There are so many more interesting episodes in Robert the Bruce’s life, and we’re stuck with two hours of historically vague moping. Terrific.
Despite its connection to the family-unsuitable Bravehart, the only content issues in Robert the Bruce relate to violence. All of the violence is about what you’d expect from a movie about war in the 14th century - injuries (and deaths) stemming from swords, axes, arrows, and other assorted weaponry which push it into PG-13 territory. Surprisingly, there’s almost no profanity at all, and only vague references to sex. So while the movie is probably suitable for teens, it’s also unlikely to be of any interest or educational merit.Directed by Richard Gray. Starring Angus Macfadyen, Anna Hutchison, and Zach McGowan. Running time: 124 minutes. Theatrical release April 24, 2020. Updated May 8, 2020
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Robert the Bruce
Rating & Content Info
Why is Robert the Bruce rated Not Rated? Robert the Bruce is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: Frequent scenes of medieval combat, which feature people being stabbed, beaten, and shot with arrows. A child is killed with an axe. A man is shown being hanged. A person removes an arrow from another individual and cauterizes the wound. An individual’s foot is impaled on a spike trap. Someone is bitten severely.
Sexual Content: Some sexual content is implied but not shown. One instance of dialogue more directly refers to sexual activity but in a non-explicit manner.
Profanity: Occasional use of mild profanity and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult background characters are shown drinking what is implied to be ale.
Page last updated May 8, 2020
Robert the Bruce Parents' Guide
Robert experiences something of a crisis of faith when he begins to feel that his uprising was doomed from the start. What does he do to get back on track? How do the others help him to rebuild his confidence? What do you think caused his disillusionment in the first place?
Scottish history is full of larger-than-life characters like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Who are some other famous historical personages from Scotland?
Scottish independence has been a part of political life for centuries. When did Scotland last attempt to leave the United Kingdom? What was the result? Why do you think they made that choice? How would you have chosen? What are the advantages and disadvantages Scotland faces as part of the United Kingdom? What are the political differences today between Scotland and England?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
G.W.S. Barrow’s Robert Bruce is a more factual account of this King of Scots. Focusing not only on Robert, but on that period of history in Scotland, it is a valuable resource in understanding the history behind the film.
Robert the Bruce: King of Scots by James Robertson (and illustrated by Jill Calder) is a more child-friendly resource, with simpler writing and colorful illustrations to help children get involved in history.
Related home video titles:
Some more family-suitable viewing includes Disney’s Brave, about the adventures of Scottish Princess Merida and her mother, Queen Elinor. Other Disney films set in the medieval period include The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood.
If you’re not fussy about historically accurate Scottish history, there are several filmed adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth which are absolutely fascinating, if not at all representative of the historical king. More recent versions starring Sir Patrick Stewart (2010) and Michael Fassbender (2015) stand out as hugely different takes on the same play.