Film blogging and writing reviews comes with inevitable 'Have you seen....' conversation with family, friends and work colleagues. This paired with 'What did you think of.......?' are probably the two most frequent conversations I have with people (and I'm not complaining for one minute).
More recently though I have been approached by parents asking my opinion on certain films that are classified 12A. In particular they want to know if I feel the film in question would be suitable for their son/daughter to watch. I am aways flattered that they feel I'm the person to ask however the question is not easily answered.
If you are a reader from outside the UK let me explain. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) website states that a 12A certificate means that "No one younger than 12 may see a 12A film in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult."
Clear enough you may say so where do I struggle?
The problem for me lies in giving an opinion on whether or not a particular young person would enjoy a 12A film. Given that some of the content can be 'top end' of what qualifies as a 12A and may in fact be closer to a 15 certificate .
A recent example of what I would term a 'top end' 12A was the Hunger Games films, which, when first classified by the BBFC was determined to be a 15 (i.e no one younger than 15 may see the film in a cinema). However, given the target audience for the film, recommendations were made in order to reduce classification to a 12A.
When released on DVD however some of the old footage was reintroduced (blood spatter, lingering shots of corpses etc.) and a 15 certificate granted.
So how do you gauge if a 12A is appropriate for your child?
In the past I have likened the argument for taking a young person to a 12A to spicy food............Stay with me.
If you ask 4 people round a dinner table if a particular dish is spicy you may well receive four different answers.
The thing is everyone has a differing tolerance for spicy food. Some can't cope with more than a mild korma and some love flaming hot dishes.
Likewise some young people will watch some 'top end' 12A films such as the Hunger Games and not be affected by anything they see. Others may not be able to cope at all with the violence and themes involved.
Ultimately only the parent knows the tolerance levels their child has for what they will see on screen. I have been in cinemas where parents have left with children as unexpected reactions are not that unusual. This is why I steer clear of a yes/no answer and instead point parents to the excellent BBFC website and advise them to look up the specific film to see what the content is. They will hopefully then be better equipped to determine if their child should watch.
No film critic or blogger like me should ever say if a young person should/can watch a particular film nor can the BBFC. The only people capable of ascertaining the best answer are those who know the young person best and ultimately that will always be their parent.