A wild orphan, referred to as ‘New Boy’ (Aswan Reid), is taken from his ancestral lands and brought to a small orphanage run by Sister Eileen (Cate Blanchett) and Sister Mum (Deborah Mailman) in the middle of outback New South Wales. Here, with the help of a labourer called George (Wayne Blair), the nuns are looking after a group of boys, including Head Boy Michael (Shane Brady), until they are old enough to go off to work on sheep stations. Unable to speak English, New Boy tries to make sense of his surroundings and the way he is now expected to live, often with surprising results. When a statue depicting the crucifixion of Jesus arrives, New Boy develops a fascination with it. The nuns sense a specialness about New Boy and occasionally treat him differently, making allowances that otherwise would not have been permitted. New Boy, himself, seems to have a magical touch and takes great pleasure and pride in it as it brings him comfort and solace during difficult times and allows him to help and heal in ways that the adults around him cannot explain or truly understand. Will his newfound religious fascination dim his innate power? Or will New Boy find a way to keep the magic that resides in his heart and connects him to his country, while learning to live as the nuns instruct?
The loss of culture and identity; assimilation; loss of family; the struggle for survival; religious fervour; deceitfulness
The New Boy has some violence. For example:
- New Boy strangles a man, leaving him unconscious in the desert.
- New Boy is hit in the head with a boomerang and knocked unconscious.
- New Boy is hauled in a sack, and is dragged and thrown around in the process of being taken to the orphanage.
- Sister Eileen fights a police officer for getting rough with and scaring New Boy.
- One of the boys punches New Boy in the stomach and New Boy retaliates, punching the other so hard that he is knocked out.
- Michael canes one of the other boys for stealing food. The boy is shown with large red welts on his palms.
- New Boy shoves Michael for caning the other child.
- A snake is hit and killed with rocks after it bites one of the boys.
- The boys beat field mice to death with bats and clubs.
- Nails are hammered into the hands of a statue of Jesus and New Boy sees blood dripping from the hands, down onto the ground.
- George slaughters a sheep, slitting its throat and allowing its blood to ooze out.
- New Boy kills two lambs by bashing their skills in. He also kills and skewers three lizards and brings them to the kitchen.
- Sister Eileen smashes a bunch of baby snakes on the floor of the church.
- New Boy crucifies himself by forcing the nails that went through the hands of the statue of Jesus into his own palms.
There are no sexual references in The New Boy.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
The New Boy has some substance use. For example:
- Sister Eileen often drinks wine in her room and appears to have alcoholic tendencies.
- New Boy is thirsty and cannot find water, so he pours himself some wine from Sister Eileen’s jug and drinks that instead.
- New Boy finds a bottle of wine but struggles to open it. He smashes the top off the bottle and drinks from the broken lower half.
Nudity and sexual activity
There’s no nudity and sexual activity in The New Boy.
There’s no product placement in The New Boy.
The New Boy has some coarse language, name-calling and insults.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The New Boy is an outback drama, set in 1940’s wartime Australia. Filmed, written and directed by Indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton, it boasts wonderful performances set against beautiful, barren landscapes and leaves the viewer to wonder about the relationship between spirituality and magic. The New Boy is best suited to older, more mature audiences.
These are the main messages from The New Boy:
- The magic and power of spiritual beliefs and practices can come in many forms and in many guises.
- The power of compassion, empathy and kindness transcends time, race and culture.
Values in The New Boy that you could reinforce with your children are compassion, empathy, self-reliance, courage and industriousness.
The New Boy could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like these:
- The dangers of playing with snakes.
- The dangers of religious fanaticism.
- The impact of removing Aboriginal children from their culture and overpowering their spiritual beliefs and practices.