The Northman Parent Guide
What it lacks in originality it makes up for in sheer volume.
Parent Movie Review
King Aruvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) has returned to his kingdom on the Irish coast after another successful overseas conquest, but he has been injured and now feels the need to prepare his young son, Amleth (Oscar Novak) to succeed him. He will need that preparation sooner than anyone thinks, as Aruvandill’s brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang) sees an opportunity to murder his brother and seize the throne. Amleth flees across the sea and is raised by a savage band of Viking marauders along the Volga and trained as a berserker.
Years later, Amleth (now played by Alexander Skarsgård) learns that Fjölnir has been ousted from power and is reduced to farming in Iceland, where he lives with Amleth’s mother (Nicole Kidman) and their heirs. Consumed with revenge, Amleth stows away on a longboat full of slaves bound for Fjölnir’s property, where he meets Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), with whom he plots to destroy his murderous uncle. But there’s a big difference between planning revenge and taking it. Thankfully, Amleth has never been one to overthink things.
If I had to break it down, The Northman is roughly 10% Hamlet, 40% Beowulf, and 50% screaming. Most of the screenplay is just characters screaming themselves hoarse, which must have simplified the writing process. If you’re expecting an in-depth character study, you’re in the wrong theater. This is two-hours of gory Viking carnage (and screaming), with a little bit of sex thrown in for variety. The film occasionally gets lost in its own ambitions to the point that it struggles to maintain a coherent story, but I found it hard to care too much about the minutiae of why a particular character was doing something. Usually the answer was “revenge” anyway.
Despite the simplicity of the story, this movie is absolutely captivating. Egger’s brilliant cinematography, the attention paid to every little detail, the otherworldly beauty of Iceland, and the score, which alternates between haunting and horrifying, all combine to make this utterly engrossing. It is a spectacle film best watched on a big screen at a spine-shattering volume.
Of course, this is not a movie for everyone. Those with an aversion to gore or violence are going to have a miserable time within the first half hour, and it goes downhill from there. There are also several instances of graphic nudity, in both sexual and non-sexual contexts, which is also going to turn off many viewers. If, on the other hand, you only care about profanity, you have very little to worry about, so there’s a little silver lining for you.
The Northman was never going to be a family film, unless your grandmother is in the habit of making blood sacrifices to Odin over the weekends. As blood-soaked revenge sagas go, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a film that captures the (literal) screaming insanity of a Viking warrior hell-bent on vengeance. Just don’t be surprised if you stroll out of the theatre with a powerful desire to listen to Led Zeppelin’s Viking-inspired Immigrant Song.Directed by Robert Eggers. Starring Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor Joy. Running time: 140 minutes. Theatrical release April 22, 2022. Updated January 13, 2024
Watch the trailer for The Northman
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Northman rated R? The Northman is rated R by the MPAA for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity
Violence: People, including women and children, are frequently brutally slaughtered with a variety of weapons, including swords, knives, arrows, spears, and axes. Individuals are decapitated, stabbed through the head, disemboweled, drugged into a panic that leads to suicide, burned alive, and ritualistically sacrificed. Several animals are killed. Corpses are frequently seen, and one some occasions, dismembered and artistically rearranged.
Sexual Content: Male and female characters are seen nude in sexual and non-sexual contexts. Characters are briefly seen having sex from a distance without clear detail. There are references to incest and allusions to rape. A character smears menstrual blood on another. There is one sexually suggestive scene where buttocks are visible and there is thrusting detail. A woman shows her genitals, covered in menstrual blood, to a man to deter him from raping her. A woman attempts to seduce her own son, who rejects her.
Profanity: There are several uses of mild curses and one use of scatological profanity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are seen drinking, sometimes to excess. Characters, including children, are given hallucinogenic substances as part of religious rituals.
Page last updated January 13, 2024
The Northman Parents' Guide
The Vikings had a significant impact on European (and world) history. For more information, you can follow these links.
History on the Net: Vikings History: An Overview of the Culture and History of the Viking Age
Wikipedia: Norse colonization of North America
Wikipedia: Kievan Rus’
History.com: 6 Things We Owe to the Vikings