Paradise Road

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3 1/2

Content: +1

The indomitable spirit of a group of women held prisoners by the Japanese for three years during World War II makes for a fascinating film. Mostly English, European and Australian, the women range in age from young adult to middle age. They are living in Singapore when the Japanese attack. Their evacuation ship is bombed and some survivors make it to the shores of the Japanese-occupied tropical island of Sumatra. Playing key roles in the docudrama are fashion model Adrienne (Glenn Close), Christian missionary Mrs. Drummond (Pauline Collins), German doctor Verstak (Frances McDormand) and Topsy Merritt (Julianna Margulies). At the camp the women are forced into slave labor and constantly battle starvation and malaria. Yet they form a vocal orchestra using a classical musical score handwritten from memory by Mrs. Drummond. Their first concert on Christmas Eve renews their determination to survive. Even the prison guards are mesmerized by the beautiful music. Based on interviews with survivors who are still living, the film is a must-see for mature audiences, although it is too intense for younger viewers. Far from depressing, Paradise Road is a celebration of the human spirit.

The prisoners are subjected to slaps, whippings and tortuous long hours of labor in the rice paddies, with barely enough food to survive. After an Asian woman sneaks out of camp and bribes a guard for some quinine to treat malaria, she's caught and burned alive in front of the other women. A young Australian woman is forced into an immobile standing position and left in the hot sun for a day without food or water. The glue that holds them together is the love and faith exhibited by Catholic nuns and Mrs. Drummond. Non-judgmental but never compromising their beliefs, they are strong witnesses for Christ. Foul language is very sparse with only two exclamatory profanities and two mild crudities. Breast nudity and brief full female frontal nudity is shown in a shower scene, and male rear nudity is seen once in a bathhouse. Some younger prisoners are lured away from the camp to a life of luxury as prostitutes for Japanese officers. The violence is not gratuitous, nor is it the focus of the story. The women's bravery and determination to survive illustrates how God can help ordinary people accomplish extraordinary deeds.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Fox Searchlight Pictures, P.O. Box 900, Beverly Hills, CA 90213

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Few (2) times Mild

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: Few (2) times Exclamatory only

Violence: Many times Moderate and Severe (bombings with injuries shown, woman burned alive, whippings, slapping, cruel treatment; woman forced to stand in hot sun; women terrorized by soldiers)

Sex: None

Nudity: Few times (breast and brief full frontal female nudity in shower scene; rear male nudity once)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Few times (women joke about sex)

Drugs: Few times (alcohol drinking)

Other: Nuns and missionary portrayed positively

Running Time: 114 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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