The Aeronauts Parent Guide
A story of courage and persistence set against a stunning and terrifying backdrop.
Parent Movie Review
Weather forecasts are something we take for granted. We click on our phones and read amazingly accurate short and long range forecasts, unaware that our ability to predict weather has an unusual history. In fact, some of the foundations of meteorology date back to the mid-19th century and an unusual alliance between a scientist and a hot air balloonist.
James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) is a “scientist of the air”, one of the earliest meteorologists, dedicated to studying and forecasting the weather. In the scientific world of 1860s Britain he’s seen as little better than a quack; he’s mocked and derided for his conviction that weather patterns can be understood and predicted. James believes that if he could just get high enough above the clouds to understand atmospheric conditions, he would be able to prove many of his theories. But the only way to reach the sky is in a hot air balloon and James doesn’t have access to one.
Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) – a composite drawn from real world female balloonists - is an aeronaut, taught to fly hot air balloons by her late husband, Pierre Rennes (Vincent Perez). Grounded by her grief Amelia hasn’t flown for two years and endures flashbacks of Pierre’s tragic death falling from their balloon. Then James erupts into her life, pleading, cajoling, and demanding that she take him up on a flight that could break records, revolutionize science, and change the world.
Such a flight could also be very dangerous, and so it turns out to be. The Aeronauts is filled with multiple scenes of extreme peril. I spent most of this film right on the edge of my seat, fingers (and sphincters) clenched as James and Amelia were tossed around (and out of) the basket in a storm. I almost stopped breathing when Amelia was dangling from a rope, seven miles above the ground. And there is one absolutely heart-stopping scene when Amelia climbs the frozen ropes netted around the balloon to manually open a release valve. If you, like me, are afraid of heights, this movie is enough to make you pass out from terror and you should definitely not see it on the big screen. It will be available to stream in a couple of weeks: catch it on the smaller screen and it might be less vertigo-inducing.
If, however, you want to enjoy a film with spectacular cinematography where the sky becomes a character in its own right, The Aeronauts is best watched on a big screen. There are some moments of astounding beauty which deserve to be seen in a theater. The breathtaking action scenes will also have greater impact on a theatrical canvas. (If you want to see it in a theater, be sure to buy your tickets soon: The Aeronauts is an Amazon Studios production. Produced for Amazon’s streaming service, it only has a brief theatrical release to qualify it for awards season.)
Whichever format you choose to watch this film in, you can feel safe letting your teens watch along with you. In addition to very minor negative content, this production flies high with messages about teamwork, courage, and persistence. James, the son of a watchmaker, is noteworthy for his determination to forge ahead in his research, despite the mockery and condescension of the scientific establishment. On the domestic front, James also demonstrates committed family relationships in his care for and kindness towards his aging and somewhat senile father. Amelia, too, is an affecting example of courage as she pushes herself to move past the trauma of her husband’s death. Both characters provide positive role models as they face danger with courage and teamwork. These uplifting messages are great for teens and we can be grateful that we don’t have to go seven miles up in a hot air balloon to find them.Directed by Tom Harper. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, and Himesh Patel. Running time: 100 minutes. Theatrical release December 6, 2019. Updated May 14, 2020
Watch the trailer for The Aeronauts
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Aeronauts rated PG-13? The Aeronauts is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some peril and thematic elements.
Violence: A flashback of a man falling through the sky is repeatedly seen. A man grabs a woman’s arm and twists her around. A woman throws a dog out of a hot air balloon: a parachute opens and the dog lands safely. There are multiple moments of extreme peril. In a storm, people are tossed around inside a balloon basket and are flipped out of it. A woman climbs the frozen ropes netted around a balloon; she passes out and falls off the balloon. She is only saved by a rope tied around her waist, but she is hanging miles above the ground. Main characters are injured on several occasions: blood is seen. A woman slaps a man’s face. A man has a nosebleed and the blood drips on to a woman’s face. A woman faints. Characters pass out due to lack of oxygen. Characters are knocked out from a rough landing. A man pours brandy on to a woman’s injuries; she cries out from the pain. Spoiler: A man jumps out of a balloon and falls to his death.
Sexual Content: A husband and wife embrace. A man holds a woman’s hand on a few occasions.
Profanity: The movie contains one mild expletive and two terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A main character drinks a glass of champagne at a ball; other background characters also drink alcohol.
Page last updated May 14, 2020
The Aeronauts Parents' Guide
How historically accurate is this film? Find out here:
Read about the real life adventures of James Glaisher and his balloon co-pilot, Henry Tracey Coxwell, here:
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you enjoyed the gorgeous shots in the film, check out David Owen’s Lighter Than Air: An Illustrated History of the Development of Hot-Air Balloons.
Also richly illustrated is Richard Holmes’ Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air. Fraser Simons also covers similar ground in The Early History of Ballooning – The Age of the Aeronaut.
For an in-depth look at the development of meteorology in the 19th century, check out Katharine Anderson’s Predicting the Weather: Victorians and the Science of Meteorology.
News About "The Aeronauts"
Produced by Amazon, The Aeronauts will have a limited theatrical release on 6 December 2019 before moving directly to streaming on 20 December 2019. It worked for Netflix with Roma in 2018; apparently Amazon wants to have its cake and eat it too by using a theatrical release to qualify for movie awards while boosting viewers for its streaming service.
Related home video titles:p>For another story of Victorians on an adventure, this time for a wager and not scientific discovery, watch Around the World in 80 Days
Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones co-star in The Theory of Everything a, a biopic about acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife, Jane.
If you’re looking for more English films about scientists, you can start with The Man Who Knew Infinity, a bittersweet film about a mathematical genius who travels from India to Cambridge and navigates a different culture and historical upheaval while contributing to the knowledge of mathematics. The Imitation Game tells the story of Alan Turing, who revolutionized the world of computing while attempting to crack Nazi codes.