Story

Alpha is set 20 000 years ago in Palaeolithic Europe. It begins when a young teenager, Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee), son of the tribal chief, is finally permitted to join the other hunters of his tribe on the annual bison hunt. The journey is long and arduous and Keda’s mother, Rho (Natassia Malthe), is worried that her son isn’t yet ready for danger and killing. She is reassured by the chief (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) that her son has the strength to survive and help provide for the tribe.

As the hunters travel towards the bison, following on ancient pathways marked by their ancestors, it’s hard for Keda to live up to his father’s expectations. Keda’s confidence wavers. When they finally make it to the bison, Keda is separated from his tribe and finds himself alone and injured in the wilderness. While defending himself against a pack of wolves, Keda causes serious harm to one of the wolves, which is left bleeding and close to death. Keda has a kind heart, and he pities the dying creature and nurses her back to health.

Slowly the animal starts to trust Keda, and their relationship develops into one of mutual comfort and help. Keda names the wolf Alpha (played by chuck, the Czechoslovakian wolfdog). Together Keda and Alpha start the journey towards Keda’s tribe. The wolf and the young man face danger and near-death experiences, and they must work together to survive.

Themes

Survival; separation from family; coming of age; prehistoric history; hunting and killing animals; father and son relationships

Violence

Alpha has some violence. For example:

  • Members of the tribe kick and beat each other.
  • There are many scenes that show people hunting, killing and eating animals.

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

Alpha has some mild partial nudity. For example, Keda swims in a lake in his underclothes.

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

Ideas to discuss with your children

Alpha is a gripping and visually spectacular tale of peril and survival, which looks at the origins of the human-dog relationship.

Although Alpha is rated PG, it has a sense of constant peril and some scary and emotionally charged scenes, which make it more suited to older children. Also, children will need to be confident readers to keep up with the subtitles. Children who can’t read the subtitles will be able to understand most of what’s happening and will probably still enjoy the movie.

It’s worth being aware that there is some controversy about whether bison were harmed in the making of the movie.

The main messages from this movie are that we need others to survive and that you can find strength within yourself to keep going, even when it looks like there’s no hope.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include being:

  • responsible and contributing to your ‘tribe’ or community
  • strong and brave
  • kind-hearted towards animals.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:

  • killing and hunting animals
  • feeling pressure to do things before you’re mature enough to handle the consequences.