The Painter and the Thief Parent Guide
A moving depiction of our universal need to be seen as more than the worst thing we've ever done.
Parent Movie Review
What would you do if someone stole your masterpieces? Hunt them down? Seek revenge? If you’re Barbora Kysilkova, you meet the thief and change his life.
It’s 2015 and Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova has moved from Berlin to Oslo to escape an abusive ex-boyfriend and live with her Norwegian partner, øystein. Two of her paintings are being exhibited in a local gallery, until they’re stolen by two junkies. Barbora is devastated, but the police are efficient and both thieves are quickly arrested.
Barbora is a complex woman and when she attends the hearing of one of the thieves, Karl-Bertil Nordland, she doesn’t berate him but asks why he stole her paintings. “Because they were beautiful” is his honest response. Disarmed, Barbora asks if she can draw him. As he comes over to her apartment, the two develop an unlikely friendship. Barbora doesn’t absolve Karl-Bertil for the theft – she is anxious to recover the paintings but Karl-Bertil was so high when he took them that he can’t remember where they wound up. The missing paintings remain an aching wound for Barbora, but their relationship continues to grow and when Karl-Bertil is injured in a police chase, it’s Barbora who oversees his care.
The Painter and the Thief is an unusual documentary. It’s less a story – although its narrative is engaging – than an exploration of what it means to be human. Barbora and Karl-Bertil’s unusual association exposes the complexity of both people, showing their struggles and scars but also their resilience. Karl-Bertil is an addict, damaged by his parent’s divorce and his own self-loathing. Barbora is endlessly kind, but also reckless, both physically and emotionally. Both of them, however, are capable of surviving and growing despite their challenges. The film is a constant reminder that everyone needs to be seen as more than the worst thing they’ve ever done; as more than an assemblage of their weaknesses, flaws, and failures.
Because Barbora is an artist, she’s a keen observer, and she sees Karl-Bertil clearly – both his brokenness and his innate human dignity. “He shouts for attention,” she says, “to be seen.” When she shows Karl-Bertil her painting of him, his emotional reaction to being seen, to being perceived as worthy of being seen, is the emotional centerpiece of the film. Knowing that someone perceives him as a human being with value shakes him to the very core. And we see it on film. The intense emotional intimacy of this film is astounding and is a tribute to director Benjamin Ree.
Despite its positive messages, parents should be aware that this production comes with significant content issues that push this movie into Restricted territory. There are fifteen sexual expletives in the film but the biggest issue is substance use: all major characters smoke frequently and drink alcohol. There’s also a scene where Karl-Bertil goes to buy heroin and another where he’s shown high. However, the drug use is not glamorized and this movie has an implicit “just say no” message. Hopefully, viewers will be able to separate out the negative aspects of the movie and say yes to the positive ones – forgiveness, friendship, redemption and an understanding of the innate worth of every human being.Directed by Benjamin Ree. Starring Barbora Ksyilkova. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release May 22, 2020. Updated May 21, 2020
Watch the trailer for The Painter and the Thief
The Painter and the Thief
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Painter and the Thief rated Not Rated? The Painter and the Thief is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: There is mention of a woman being beaten in a past relationship. There is mention of suicide and murder. Someone talks about police chase that results in a car accident and significant injury. Blood is shown on the car’s sun visor.
Sexual Content: Art that depicts nude or partially unclothed subjects is seen. A topless woman is shown posing on top of a shirtless man: only her back is visible. A photo is seen that shows a woman wearing a bra and panties on all fours above a shirtless man.
Profanity: There are approximately two dozen profanities, including 15 sexual expletives, a slang term for sex, six scatological phrases, and a few minor curse words.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters smoke constantly throughout the film. Main characters drink. They drink alone in stressful times. A main character goes to buy heroin; he puts his hands over the camera, but we hear the transaction. A main character is shown high on drugs. There is mention of someone dying from a drug overdose. A main character recalls being so high on pills he didn’t sleep for four days. Someone mentions a junkie taking 100 pills.
Page last updated May 21, 2020
The Painter and the Thief Parents' Guide
It can be difficult to face people who have wronged us. How does this movie address those difficulties? How do the people involved treat one another? How could they have reacted differently? Do you think they made the right decisions? Do you think there should be limits to how kind we are to others? Should we risk our own safety to look after other people?
The film follows Karl-Bertil into prison and gives an accurate depiction of Norway’s unusually successful penal system. What do you think of Norway’s rehabilitation-based prison system?
The New York Times: The radical humaneness of Norway’s Halden Prison
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Artists are a popular topic for moviemakers. Big Eyes recounts the true story of Margaret Keane, whose husband claims credit for her distinctive paintings.
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Ever wondered what it takes to paint a masterpiece? Software inventor Tim Jenison tries his hand at reproducing Vermeer’s art in Tim’s Vermeer.
Forgiving those who have harmed us is incredibly difficult. For movies about forgiveness you can start with The Railway Man, in which Colin Firth plays a British veteran who has the chance to confront the Japanese guards of his POW camp.
A father reeling from his daughter’s death has an encounter with God that changes his perspective on life in The Shack. In Amish Grace, a community reaches out and forgives a man who carried out a school shooting and killed several of their daughters.