A Parent’s Guide to Northanger Abbey (Movie)

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

Northanger Abbey by PBS and Jon Jones (Director)

Type: Classic, Historical

Basic Plot: Catherine reads gothic romance novels to pass time and wishes they would come true, but her excess of reading gothic romance tends to cause her to believe things are dark and dangerous when she visits a friend’s house.


Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: The story was interesting and the characters were believable and pleasant. All scenes that would be necessary were added and completely new content was rarely added, though it did often expand on content in the book. The ending was a little different than the book, but still good.

The thing I did enjoy most that was that even though the movie didn’t cover everything, it didn’t feel rushed. Pride and Prejudice the movie always seemed very rushed to me, but this movie moved smoothly, even with less content. I do think a mini-series would be better though.

Acting: 4/5 Well Done: The actors and actresses did act well. All of the characters were accurate. Catherine was a young, imaginative girl. Henry Tilney was older and sophisticated, yet cheerful and fun. Isabella and her brother were nasty people, one subtly and the other outright. Overall the characters were portrayed well.

Costumes and Scenery: 4/5 Well Done: The costumes were accurate and beautiful. The accuracy could be scene in even minor characters costumes, as a little boy is wearing one of the old dress style clothes worn long ago. The outfits are also beautiful, having a variety of style and colors for what the time period allowed.

There was a variety of scenes that were realistic. They were not elaborate and overdone, causing them to not be as fancy as some newer historical movies, but this was also good because it was not unbelievably perfect and beautiful.

Music: 3½/5 Above Average: Music was played that fit the scenes. It was more exciting than some Jane Austen movies, no doubt because the story is not a serious social novel but a parody.

Moral: 2½/5 A Mostly Good Moral: The moral is harder to read in the movie, but still there. The moral about friend choices is toned down a lot more because the movie could not include as much content as the book, though the moral is slightly mentioned. The moral about not getting too carried away with fantasy is seen and mentioned clearly. The only moral that was different was the pushing at the end of the movie that it was ok to disobey your parents, as Henry marries Catherine against his father’s will and the narrator suggest that “reward(ing of) filial disobedience” may have been an intended moral, which God says in Epehsians 6 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” This statement in the movie may be meant as a joke, but can still have a negative affect on children.

Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: The movie is definitely admirable for accuracy in costumes and characters and its interesting story. I believe women and girls older than twelve would be most interested in it according to quality.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 3½/5 Nudity, Inappropriate Speech, and Suggestive Content: Men make suggestive comments about women and stare at them. A woman makes a suggestive comment about clothing. Characters flirt with each other, sometimes in a suggestive manner. Two women talk about a book, and the one reveals it has sensual content. A woman later whispers about the wrongdoings a man has supposedly committed. It is greatly suggested that a man and woman have sex as a woman is shown lying in bed with possibly only blankets wrapped tightly around her as she talks with a man outside of the bed. Woman’s dresses are low in the back and front, and one scene shows two women in their underclothes. “Seductions” are briefly mentioned in conversation when comparing novels to real life. A girl dreams about a man keeping a woman chained to a bed. A man and woman kiss in what could be considered a passionate manner. A girl reads aloud from a book a scene about a woman undressing to bathe as a man watches and lusts after her. The scene also mentions a bird sexually touching a woman, and the word “wanton” is used to describe it.

In some versions, a woman is watched by a male observer while she bathes, and she is encouraged that it is nudity is “natural” as it is “all God’s creation.” Her naked back is then exposed to the audience as she stands. I have not personally witnessed this scene, as not all versions have it. I heard of this fact from another Christian blog called purityandprecision.com and the website IMDB.

Violence: 1/5 Brief Light Violence: A girl fantasizes about two sword fight; in one a man is suggested to die by sword and a man is shot off his horse. A girl mentions how novels have murders.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 2½/5 Moderate Swearing: Forms of “damn” are misused six times. God’s name is taken in vain five times. “Lord” is misused twice. “Bloody” and “hell” are misused once each. “Prig” is said twice.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: ½/5 Mentioned and Imagined Intense and Disturbing Content Content: Some fantasies a girl has contain violence or things that may be viewed as intense or disturbing, such as a woman being chained to a bed or man locked in prison. A woman is mentioned to have died from a sickness. A girl suspects that the woman was murdered. In a fantasy, different women faint twice. A man’s leg is bandaged, and he uses crutches, both because of gout. A girl believes someone’s skeleton is behind a veil. A man jokes with a girl about skeletons and scary things being in his house. Death and blood are mentioned in the movie.

Religious Issues: 1/5 Slight Mention: There is mention of christening and one child is shown being christened. A book called The Monk (a monk being the center of the book) is mentioned. A man is called a “friar” in a book. A man is mentioned to be a clergyman. A family lives in an abbey that is no longer used as an abbey. A girl wonders if a home is haunted, and a man jokes that it is. A man says a good book is preferable to “a hundred boring sermons” (though the character that says this is a clergyman).

Magic: 1/5 Brief Mention: Magical items are mentioned, and the opera, The Magic Flute, is watched. Vampires and ghosts are mentioned. A man says his father is like a vampire for “draining the life out of” his mother. No magic is done in the movie.

Others: Characters dance.

Overall: The sexual speech and suggestiveness causes me to not recommend this movie. I was quite shocked at the graphicness of the books and fantasies that Catherine had, especially for a Jane Austen movie.


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