Red Sparrow was the UK’s most complained-about film in 2018

Red Sparrow, the spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence, was the most complained-about film released in the UK last year, it has been revealed.

According to its annual report, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) received 64 complaints about the film – all of which said that the Red Sparrow’s certificate, at 15, was too low, and that it should have been 18 because of the amount of violence and sexual violence. In explaining its decision, the BBFC said it had advised film-makers they would need to make cuts in one particular scene to reduce the portrayal of “strong sadistic and sexual violence”, and that the film-makers had done so.

The kids’ animation Peter Rabbit also received a large number of complaints – 50 – largely, according to the BBFC, connected to a protest by allergy awareness campaigners over a scene where the rabbits attack another character with fruit. The BBFC said it received no complaints about the scene after the film was released in the UK, and rejected suggestions that it would encourage bullying. The report said: “The scene in question … [is] part of an ongoing battle between the rabbits and the owner of a vegetable garden. The pelting with fruit is simply one of the ploys the rabbits use in order to overcome their nemesis in response to his attempts to trap them, electrocute them, drown them and blow them up.”

Peter Rabbit


Fruity response … Peter Rabbit. Photograph: Columbia/Sony Pictures/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

Two other films – the documentary A Northern Soul, about wannabe rapper Steve Arnott, and Tamil-language drama Kaala – were cited as examples of co-ordinated campaigns. The BBFC said it received 45 postcards objecting to the first film’s 15 certificate (for use of “strong language”), but as the cards had been handed out by film-makers at screenings, the BBFC discounted them as they “do not provide an accurate representation of broad public opinion”. Complaints about Kaala, which was given a 12A certificate, were, according to the report, “all worded identically and were clearly part of an organised online campaign”.

A number of complaints about the content of the PG-certified trailer for gay teen romance Love, Simon, saying “depiction of gay relationships to be inappropriate at the PG level” were rejected by the BBFC, which stated it applies guidelines “regardless of [the] sexual orientation” depicted in a film.

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