By Australian Council on Children and the Media
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Jasper Jones movie still image credit Madman Entertainment
© Madman Entertainment
 
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Rating
  • Recommended for mature audiences
Recommendations
  • Not recommended for children under 15
  • Suitable for children over 15
Warnings
  • Contains disturbing or upsetting scenes
  • Contains coarse language
Genre Drama, mystery, thriller
Length 105 minutes
Release Date 02/03/2017

Story

Jasper Jones is set during the summer of 1969 in the fictional Western Australian town of Corrigan. In the dead of night, 14-year-old Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller), an awkward book-loving teenager, is woken by a knock on his bedroom window. Jasper Jones (Aaron L. McGrath), an older teenager considered ‘dangerous’ by the locals, asks Charlie to trust him and then tells Charlie to follow him into the night. Jasper leads Charlie deep into the bush, where he shows Charlie the dead body of a teenage girl, Laura Wishart. She’s hanging by the neck from a tree.

The rope tied around Laura’s neck belongs to Jasper. Laura is a local white girl and Jasper is Aboriginal. He fears he’ll be blamed for Laura’s death. Jasper begs Charlie to help him find Laura’s killer and prove his innocence. Charlie and Jasper hide Laura’s body, and Charlie returns to his bedroom as though nothing has happened, while Jasper lays low.

The next day Charlie unexpectedly runs into Laura’s younger sister Eliza (Angourie Rice). They quickly become friends because of the turmoil created by Laura’s disappearance. Charlie and Jasper’s investigation leads them into unexpected situations. Charlie has to confront racists and he finds out that his mother is having an affair. Jasper discovers a grandfather he didn’t know he had.

The friendship, trust and courage of Charlie, Jasper and Eliza are tested when the truth behind Laura’s death comes to light. Dark, ugly and forbidden secrets emerge and result in unexpected outcomes.

Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.

Racism; infidelity and marriage breakdown; suicide; incest and rape resulting in pregnancy

Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.

Jasper Jones has references to violence as well as violent scenes, some of which are emotionally intense. For example:

  • A boy tells a story about a local man who became addicted to killing, shot a woman and hung up her body to bleed out.
  • A mother shouts in rage at her 14-year-old son and then slaps him across the face.
  • In one emotionally intense scene, a distraught Caucasian woman shouts at a Vietnamese woman, ‘Your son eats like a pig while mine was killed’ (the woman’s son was recently killed in Vietnam). The Caucasian woman throws a cup of boiling tea over the Vietnamese woman, who cries out in pain.
  • A boy talks about how he heard his girlfriend screaming and then a short time later found her dead.
  • Two policemen wrestle with Jasper and try to restrain him. Later we see Jasper limping badly. He has blood smeared across his nose and a bloody cut to the eye, and he says that he can’t hear because he was hit on the ear.
  • An angry mother says to her 14-year-old son, ‘Tomorrow you’re going to wish you weren’t alive’.
  • In a scene of racial and mob violence, several Caucasian men invade the front yard of a Vietnamese man and violently attack him. They call him a ‘red rat’, punch him in the face and body, and knock him to the ground. A single Caucasian man approaches the leader of the attackers and punches him in the stomach. This knocks the man to the ground and stops the fight.
  • A young man points a rifle at an old man for several minutes before he’s reasoned with and lowers the rifle.
  • A suicide letter explains how the person that committed suicide had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by her father over a prolonged period and had as a result become pregnant.
  • We hear a report of a girl’s suicide as witnessed by her younger sister.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Jasper Jones has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years.

For example, the body of a young woman hangs by the neck from a large tree branch, and we see a clear image of the dead woman’s face. The rope around the dead woman’s neck is cut and her body falls to the ground. A young man carries the dead woman to a dam, submerges the body in the water and places a large rock on top to make it sink.

From 5-8
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Jasper Jones has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group.

For example, on several occasions a group of older Caucasian boys victimise and demean a teenage Vietnamese boy.

From 8-13
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Jasper Jones has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group.

For example, we hear an emotionally intense tale of a man panicked when driving a sick woman to hospital. He lost control of his car, which crashed and killed the woman.  

Over 13
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Sexual references

Jasper Jones has some sexual references. For example:

  • A suicide note describes how a father sexually assaulted his teenage daughter, which resulted in her becoming pregnant.
  • Two teenage boys discuss why mermaids are sexy, suggesting that it’s because of their ‘boobies’.
  • A teenage boy asks another boy whether he would rather have spiders or penises for fingers. In a later scene one of the boys asks a girl the same question.
  • We hear a younger man say that he was planning to run away with his girlfriend.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Jasper Jones shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Adults and a teenager smoke.
  • Several scenes show characters drinking alcohol socially and in other situations. Two adults are seen drunk. Jasper and Charlie drink from a hip flask.

Nudity and sexual activity

Jasper Jones has some mild sexual activity. For example:

  • A teenage girl flirts with a teenage boy, asking him to walk her home. Later in the movie, they hold hands and hug each other. 
  • A teenage boy watches his mother dance in a sensual way before she abruptly stops when she realises she’s being watched.
  • A boy sees his mother passionately kissing a strange man in the back of a parked car.  

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

Jasper Jones has coarse language and name-calling throughout. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Based on the novel of the same name by Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones is a coming-of-age story about small-town racism, victimisation and a hunt for the truth.

Jasper Jones is most suitable for an older teenage and adult audience. The movie’s young lead actors and its publicity might attract younger viewers, but you should note that it has some very emotionally intense scenes. It also has themes like suicide and incest, which younger teenagers might find disturbing and confusing. For these reasons, this movie isn’t suitable for children under 13 years and isn’t recommended for children under 15 years.

These are the main messages from this movie:

  • Courage is the mastery of fear, not its absence.
  • Family secrets of all kinds can cause great harm and distress.

If you have older teenagers who see this movie, you could talk with them about the effects of incest in families and the racism experienced by both Aboriginal and Vietnamese people in the movie.

 
 
  • Last Reviewed 2017-03-02