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A World Apart (1988)

PG | | Drama | 17 June 1988 (USA)
A White enclave in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the 1960s. Molly Roth, 13 years old, is the daughter of leftist parents, and she must piece together what's happening around her when her ... See full summary »


Chris Menges


Shawn Slovo

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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 6 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Jodhi May ... Molly Roth
Jeroen Krabbé ... Gus Roth
Barbara Hershey ... Diana Roth
Nadine Chalmers Nadine Chalmers ... Yvonne Abelson
Maria Pilar Maria Pilar ... Spanish Dance Teacher
Kate Fitzpatrick ... June Abelson
Tim Roth ... Harold
Phyllis Naidoo Phyllis Naidoo ... Sareda
Linda Mvusi ... Elsie
Carolyn Clayton-Cragg Carolyn Clayton-Cragg ... Miriam Roth
Yvonne Bryceland Yvonne Bryceland ... Bertha
Mackay Tickey Mackay Tickey ... Milius
Merav Gruer Merav Gruer ... Jude Roth
Albee Lesotho Albee Lesotho ... Solomon
Clement Muchachi Clement Muchachi ... Sipho


A White enclave in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the 1960s. Molly Roth, 13 years old, is the daughter of leftist parents, and she must piece together what's happening around her when her father disappears one night, barely evading arrest, and, not long after, her mother is detained by the authorities. Some of Molly's White friends turn against her, and her family's friendships with Blacks take on new meaning. Relationships are fragile in the world of apartheid. How will she manage? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


South Africa, 1963. A mother's love. A family's courage.




PG | See all certifications »



UK | Zimbabwe



Release Date:

17 June 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Um Mundo à Parte See more »

Filming Locations:



Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Barbara Hershey won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in this film. She won the same award in the previous year for Shy People (1987), making her the only actress or actor (as of 2015) to win consecutive awards in Cannes for performance (though in A World Apart (1988) she shared the award with her two female co-stars). See more »


Diana Roth: [inside her cell, shouting and smashing objects] No books? No books?
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Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika
Written by Enoch Sontonga
Arranged by Hans Zimmer
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User Reviews

Apartheid for youngsters. Nice idea, but troubled in execution
10 November 2015 | by Rodrigo_AmaroSee all my reviews

An important and recurring film trend in the 1980's was to deal with the apartheid in South Africa, which brought to the world a deep understanding of what the British were doing in that nation with their racial politics of segregation. The world got deeply involved with that, protested in every possible way and when the 1990's came, it was all over, South Africa was free again even though it took some time to reach peace and to develop politics for blacks and whites. The film trend had films like "Cry Freedom", "A Dry White Season" and this one directed by Chris Menges, best known as cinematographer of many classics. What makes "A World Apart" to differ from those besides the quality (the mentioned films are far better) is that it's a story that seemed designed to educate younger audiences about the apartheid reality. Commendable initiative but the ambition is so big that the movie falls short of accomplish something with such difficult task.

In the 1960's Johannesburg, the 13 year-old Molly (Jodhi May) tries to understand the world around her, a world of segregation where whites have everything and blacks don't have anything but following the racist laws created by the British where rights are denied, no public meetings are allowed, protests are deemed illegal and people are sent to jail to long sentences or die in suspicious circumstances. Those facts hit her closely when her father (Jeroen Krabbé) leaves the house to never return and her dedicated mother (Barbara Hershey) is arrested under a new law that allowed authorities to sent suspect people to jail for a 90-day period without trial. Molly's parents are leftist journalists who support the black South Africans in their quest for freedom and social rights. What follows is Molly's perspectives about this harsh reality as a young girl growing up, having to face life without the presence of her parents, taking care of her younger sisters, without any help from her friends who turned away from her when they heard about the mother's politics and imprisonment.

The film is good. The idea, though lacking and confusing, makes the film something worth seeing and almost important. However, Shawn Slovo's screenplay isn't all that great and neither deserving of the many accolades it received (a Bafta win included). I thought everything was taken too lightly, tension is built then fades away. Little is known about the activism of Molly's parents and Jeroen as the father has only one scene and we never get the chance to know why he was so important to the cause, and what really happened to him. It's the kind of script that ends up treating its adult audience as children, and if the concept was schemed to bring kids to it, then it failed a lot cause they don't offer a background neither a summary to the events taking place in South Africa and they'll feel lost.

Gladly, some scenes are very convincing, there's a good drama that sometimes unfolds with some bumps, those happen more because of the acting than the script itself. I know a lot of people are head over heels Jodhi as Molly but I frankly thought it was one of the strangest performances I've seen in a child actor. In quiet/moderate scenes she owns the role, and you cheers for her character, always wanting to see her overcome the obstacles life thrown at her. But when it's time to break down, cry and yell, or act different than her sweet almost naive way, she felt so forced, so over-the-top I couldn't relate with the girl anymore. Yes, Molly is supposed to be spoiled and ungrateful towards her caring mother (she truly believes she can change the world around her, to the point of enduring all those days in prison) but the sentimentalism she brings with that, just make her intolerable. Barbara Hershey carries the film in a good way, too bad the movie wasn't focused directly on her. Tim Roth's role is brief but it's a class act; David Suchet always deserves credit whenever he plays a villain, it's a subtle bad guy who appears to be good.

Can I say the movie is positive for the cause of education? Yes, I can. But if you really can show to your children the films I mentioned earlier, then move on with the history books, documentaries or even "Invictus", this one more contemporary. 7/10

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