The Cider House Rules
Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Cider House Rules

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexuality, nudity, substance abuse and some violence.

Reviewed by: Arthur Dutch

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
2 hr. 10 min.

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd | Director: Lasse Hallström | Producer: Richard N. Gladstein | Writer: John Irving | Distributor: Miramax Films

The Cider House Rules

“The Cider House Rules” is the story of Homer, an orphan who grows up under the guidance of an altruistic gynecologist who directs an orphanage. His altruism extends towards pregnant young women (usually out of wedlock) who seek him out to either help in the birthing process or to receive an abortion at the orphanage. While the acting is excellent and the scenery beautiful, verity is missing.

The messages in this movie are clear: abortion, fornication, drug use, lying, incest, and murder are condoned; rules are made to be broken. There are no absolutes.

So what are the cider house rules? Homer eventually leaves the orphanage of his childhood and begins to work at an orchard. He breaks some social stereotypes by living with several migrant workers in a bunkhouse, governed by a code of conduct known as the cider house rules. The rules are obviously useless to everyone (most are even illiterate), though those in the bunkhouse are expected to abide by them. Subtle and not so subtle messages like this are found throughout the movie.

While at the orchard, Homer learns about an incestuous relationship between his employer and daughter, and desires to help this girl by giving her an abortion. Obviously, there is much adult content here. Not much of it is uplifting or glorifying to the Lord. In sympathizing with the characters, we are taught that their actions are both forgivable and actually permissible. While Christians are to extend grace and forgiveness, the Bible is clear that certain rules are not to be broken and exist for our own protection. God loves us and cares deeply for us. Beware of the philosophy behind “The Cider House Rules”.

There are sex scenes, drug use is depicted, nudity is shown, and well as some violence.

Year of Release—1999

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Viewer Comments
“very depressing”… I was surprised at the message of this movie. The previews and setting of the movie make it seem modest and family-oriented. That is hardly the case. The message this movie sends to us is that abortion is okay. The movie as a whole is very depressing. The core of the movie is based in an orphanage where the doctor performs abortions and delivers and keeps unwanted babies. He is addicted to ether and eventually dies of an overdose.

Accompanying abortion and drug addiction, there is fornication, nudity, and incest. This is hardly a PG-13 movie; it should be rated R. The movie rating system needs a moral upgrade fast; this is definitely not a movie for 13 year old children to see and it also was not a good movie for me, an adult, to see. My Ratings: [1/2]
—Jermaine, age 32
“The Cider House Rules” is a completely offensive movie for any Christian beliefs where abortion is concerned. Hollywood as done a very sympathetic job of supporting Planned Parenthood and trying to convince young audiences that yes, we need to have a choice on this matter. The main character Homer being born and raised in an orphanage. Spends his youth being discipled by the doctor that runs the orphanage. During his youth and because of his circumstances of being born an orphan he has a natural understanding of the sanctity of human life.

That every person God places on Earth has a right to life and a reason for being here. The doctor performs illegal abortions on women who ask him to. He then gives Homer the task of carrying the dead fetuses to the incinerator to be burned. Homer knows no other life than living at the orphanage under this doctor’s perverted teaching. Maintaining his anti-abortion beliefs is hard, and this is the message Hollywood wants to send out. That they’re no absolutes in life.

When Homer finally leaves and goes out to discover life on his own he is led into working in an orchard and living with migrants in a bunkhouse governed by the cider house rules. This set of rules which no one can read except Homer appear to be stupid and not of any use to any of the people living and working at the orchard.

In fact, the statement is made by one of the migrants “we didn’t write these rules and we live here so Homer burn them and we will live by our own rules.”

Homer finds himself soon faced with an incest relationship between his boss and his daughter and a desire to help make things right for the girl. He says he will help her and performs an abortion on her. Giving into the years of training he was exposed to by the Dr. and over to what the dr. hoped would happen. The movie never shows the audience any other views. Such as Homer himself could have been a product of a incestuous relationship and was doing fine and a blessing to society for being allowed to live.

“The Cider House Rules” also does a good job of portraying Christians that oversee the orphanage as bigoted, intolerant people. This movie will teach Christians again how crafty movies are at getting and pushing the pro-abortion message to the public. It is depressing to see and leaves you with a very heavy heart. My Ratings: [1/4]
—Donna, age 46
Frankly I’m very disappointed. The trailers were very misleading. The acting was fine, but the drama lacked, it’s slow moving, the plot was too plain, and the trailer tells nothing of one of the movies clearest main themes… the issue of abortion. I would call it a lame romance film with a strong “pro-abortion” theme. This was NOT what I paid to see.

This COULD have been an excellent movie if the characters had been more developed, and the focus of the movie adjusted. Thanks, but no thanks. Save your money and your children. My Ratings: [1½/2]
—Brian, age 20
I found this movie very offensive, and, in fact, I left in the middle of it. Many people have cited the movie’s obviously flawed view of abortion as the offensive element. This was merely one of the many offensive aspects of “The Cider House Rules.” There is a current trend in cinema (and everywhere else, I think) to glorify sex, especially forbidden sex, and it is this element that offended me the most.

I was very disappointed to see Homer leave the orphanage, where children cared for and depended on him, and where he might have some positive influence on the doctor. The audience is supposed to be happy for Homer as he escapes the mundane, trapped, life of the orphanage. Out in the world, we see, Homer soon loses his innocence and has sex with his friend’s girlfriend (who, I might add, was met under the circumstances of an abortion) a short time after this friend is shipped off to war. This ADULTERY is presented very lightly in the movie. In fact, the audience is supposed to feel happy for Homer because he is “in love.” The whole concept disgusted me so much that I left the second they started taking their clothes off (in the middle of the woods, no less).

I was pretty pleased with the movie up until this point. I didn’t like the doctor’s view of abortion, but at least we had Homer to present the other point of view. I was touched by the sympathetic depiction of the kids in the orphanage, and pleased when Homer went to live in the Cider House, breaking down the division by color.

I later heard that Mr. Rose gets his daughter pregnant further on in the movie, and this just reaffirms my decision to leave. This incest makes no sense to me, as there was no foreshadowing of this event in the portion of the movie I saw.

All in all, I would say this movie presents a confused picture of love and sex, much like many other current movies. “Shakespeare in Love” and “Elizabeth” both present this same perverted view of sex. These movies tell us that sex will free you, inspire you, and make you a better person. This is a lie that many Christians even believe. My Christian roommate said that she enjoyed the movie and was so desensitized to this portrayal of sex that she didn’t even realize the characters had sex… My Ratings: [1/3]
—Gina, age 19
Comments from young people
The previews are very misleading. I thought I was seeing a movie about an orphan who finds himself. Instead I got a strong pro-choice film. Even the romance was tainted as the girl admits that she is “lonely” sleeping with him because her fiance is off at war. The theme of the movie contradicts itself as well. Telling you that there are no absolutes and no rules, Homer instead of setting out on his own returns to the orphanage like everyone wanted and expected him too. The other orphans are very cute, and I was moved to tears at the end when I thought of the small baby that had been aborted—he could never join them. In my opinion not worth the 5.25 I payed for it. My Ratings: [1½/3½]
—Jennifer, age 17
“supports abortion”… I found this movie very disturbing and offensive. The orphan Homer, in this movie, is taught that abortion is a choice and sometimes is the right thing to do in certain circumstances. This movie supports abortion fully. There are also a lot of sexual references… I found this movie upsetting and depressing. My Ratings: [1/2]
—Tiffany, age 15
Neutral—I completely understand why you would find this film offensive, but I’d just like to clarify one thing. The movie does not condone incest. It depicts it, but it never once puts it in a good light. Rose is raped by her father, and she hates him for it. Homer and Candy also hate him for it. I can assure you that Dr. Larch would hate him for it too, and the movie generally abides by his morals.

The only character who defends incest is Mr. Rose himself, but people always try to justify their own sins. Now, I will admit that the movie was much less clear than the book about this, and perhaps it is a bit ambiguous, but at no point does the movie condone Mr. Rose’s behavior or say it is forgivable. The only one who is “forgiven” is Rose Rose, and she was the victim.

Also, I see how you could argue that drug use is condoned, but I’d like to point out that Irving is pretty clear that abuse of both drugs and alcohol leads to death. Larch and his father both passed away from addictions, one to ether and the other to alcohol. I’d hardly call that “condoning” drug use.

Now, I’m in no way trying to argue that this movie was inoffensive, particularly to Christians (you should read the book. Way more offensive, though I think that was Irving’s point.) I mainly wanted to point out that this movie is not in favor of incest. It merely points out that rape and incest do happen, and that something should be done about it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: none / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Laura, age 17 (USA)
I’m surprised to see much of the abortion commentary—I actually thought that THE CIDER HOUSE RULES presented both sides of the issue, and helped to get people thinking about their own views. A beautifully filmed movie about human flaws and insecurity. My Ratings: [3/4½]
—Nyla E., age 16, non-Christian
Comments from non-viewers
original author is defensive of abortion… I haven’t seen the movie but I’ve read John Irving’s book. I’m usually a fan, but this book and its vehement defense of abortion offended me. If you’re reading this in an attempt to decide whether you should watch the movie, I’d skip it. Go see something else. I haven’t bought any more of John Irving’s books, especially after some derogatory comments he made about conservatives. I’d rather spend my money elsewhere.
—Glenn Leinbach, age 28