Cider House Rules (2000)

Genre: Drama | Age: 17+


Ages 4 & Under -- No
Ages 5 to 7 -- No
Ages 8 to 9 -- No
Ages 10 to 12 -- Probably Not
Ages 13 to 15 -- With Guidance
Ages 15 to 17 -- With Guidance

Cider House Rules (2000)

DRAMA: (2000, PG-13.) Dr. Wilbur Larch is the kindly but autocratic director of an orphanage full of unwanted babies in 1930s Maine. Homer Wells, an orphan twice rejected, has grown up under the tutelage of Dr. Larch. With informal medical training, he has become Larch’s assistant. Homer refuses to participate in the illegal abortions Larch does. Candy arrives with her Air Force flyer boyfriend Will to have an abortion. Homer leaves with them to see the world beyond the orphanage taking an apple-picking job with Will’s family. He slowly falls in love with Candy and finds happiness among the other workers. When Rose, one of the workers, becomes pregnant by her father, Homer performs the abortion. Rose attacks her father while he covers it up by committing suicide. When Will returns from the war paralyzed, Homer returns to the orphanage to find the Dr. Larch has died. Homer, with false medical papers, takes over.

VIOLENCE/SCARINESS: One woman dies of a botched abortion – Dr. Larch is unsuccessful in saving her life. One boy dies of a pulmonary disorder. We see Homer dumping fetal matter in an incinerator. Rose’s father has a large bloody wound in his stomach that we don’t see, but we see his hand covered in blood. One man is involved in a very mild knife fight in which he cuts his own hand; later we see a close up of the wound being sewn up. We see some blood after a surgery. It is mentioned that one prospective adopting family beat Homer.

CRIMES: Abortion (U), Drug Taking (U), Practicing Medicine without a License (U), Incest (P), Assault (U), Forgery (U), Child Abuse (U), Draft Evasion (U).

MORALS, ISSUES & VALUES: The film shows the problems unwanted children face being adopted (too few) and growing up (in isolation). Dr. Larch performs abortions because he doesn’t want women dying from going to inept abortionists. Homer refuses to participate on moral grounds, incest being the exception. Larch does his best to provide a loving environment for his orphans to grow up in, giving them a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. He tries to be a father to every single one. In order to obtain a good medical care for the orphans, Dr. Larch forges a medical discharge from the military and a medical certificate for Homer. A nurse teaches the children how to pray. Heartbroken and self-sacrificing Homer abandons Candy knowing that Will needs her more. When he suspects that Mr. Rose is having sex with his own daughter, he confronts him directly and in public. Homer is an unusual film hero in that he is more reactive than proactive. The kids at the orphanage have a variety of feelings about their birth parents from curiosity to longing to anger. Several of the fruit pickers are illiterate. The film presents the idea that “rules should not be written by those who don’t live here,” thus implying a political position favoring local, community standards rather than federal, all-encompassing laws. However, according to the film, there are greater rules that cannot be broken under any circumstances (see note below). Some very mild profanity and even less vulgarity.

SEXUALITY & GENDER ISSUES: Traditional gender roles. We very briefly see a nude man getting out of a shower. Candy gets pregnant before marriage. Rose gets pregnant by her father and after an abortion, stabs him and escapes. When Homer and Candy have sex, all we see are clothed bodies with him lying between her legs, no movement. Later we see Candy nude from the back on a bed and Homer gets in beside her.

SUBSTANCES: Candy teaches Homer how to smoke. Dr. Larch uses ether on-screen, a drug to which he seems addicted. He does this to relieve the stress of working in the orphanage. Some background smoking.

COMMENTS: An engaging film of a young man’s journey into maturity and responsibility. None of the characters are simple or two-dimensional; each has his or her positive elements and flaws. There are many complexities – moral, social and ethical – that may require parental guidance.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Abortion is one of the central issues of this film – those who do not want to address this issue should avoid this film. This film is strongly anti-abortion. Dr. Larch tries to convince Homer (and the audience) of the benefits of the availability of abortion on demand. Not only does Homer reject these views, so does the film. Everyone associated with abortion is punished, not by human law, but by something far more powerful. Dr. Larch, because of guilt about the abortions he performs, becomes drug addicted and ultimately dies from an overdose of ether. Will, the young man who got Candy pregnant, returns from the war paralyzed from the waist down (with obvious sexual implications). As a result, Candy will have no children or sexual pleasure. Homer is punished by having his heart broken. While Homer performs an abortion because of incest, the big question is what will his policies be when he takes over the hospital after Dr. Larch’s death. If Larch couldn’t convince Homer to perform abortions when he was a young, vulnerable man with Larch as his all-powerful and all-influential father figure, my assumption is that he will not perform abortions except under extreme conditions, like incest. Another important question is where young Homer got his strength to resist Dr. Larch’s views on abortion? The film seems to imply that these anti-abortion values are something Homer was born with and are thus “natural.” For these reasons, Cider House Rules is a strongly anti-abortion film.

STARRING: Michael Caine, Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Paul Rudd, Jane Alexander, Kathy Baker, Kiernan Culkin, Erik Per Sullivan, Pas de la Huerta, Kate Nelligan, Delory Lindo, Erykah Badu, Heavy D, Evan Dexter Parke, K. Todd Freeman.

ALTERNATES: Another film about the adventures and moral dilemmas of an orphan is “David Copperfield.”


Nudity -- 4
Sexuality -- 5
Physical Violence -- 3
Emotional Stress -- 5
Blood or Gore -- 4
Language/Profanity -- 2
Immorality -- 5
Parental Guidance -- 5
Watchability for Adults -- 4
Overall (For Kids of the Appropriate Age) -- 3
New Search
Copyright Arthur Taussig 2024