Story

Based on the John Marsden classic novel, Tomorrow When the War Began is the story of seven teenagers who return from a camping trip to find Australia has been invaded by a foreign power.

With their friends and families captured, they decide to band together to fight the invaders. This causes them to question personal beliefs and pushes them to do things that they previously thought unimaginable. The movie delves into the teenagers’ loss of fundamental freedoms, the feelings of helplessness that result, and their determination to fight for what is important to them.

Themes

War; death; family separation; drug use; delinquency; cruelty to animals

Violence

This movie contains many violent scenes. For example:

  • Homer, Lee and Kevin yell at each other aggressively when they are trying to decide what to do with Flip (Kevin’s dog).
  • Ellie sees a captured prisoner shot in the head at close range.
  • Ellie, Kevin and Carrie are pursued by the invaders. Ellie lights a petrol-soaked rag and throws it towards some machinery. This causes a large explosion and kills some of the invaders. There is a close-up shot of a dead soldier badly burned on the face.
  • The teenagers carry shotguns. Ellie takes a machinegun from one of the soldiers she has killed.
  • An Australian fighter plane is pursued by enemy planes and eventually blown up by a missile.
  • The house the teenagers are staying in is spotted by a surveillance helicopter, which signals to the fighter planes. The planes fire missiles, which destroy the house as the teenagers jump to save themselves.
  • Ellie, Robyn and Lee try to get away from the soldiers in a garbage truck. The soldiers shoot relentlessly at them while chasing them through the dark streets. One of the soldier’s cars gets caught in powerlines and is swung into a building and explodes. The other pursuing car runs into debris dropped by the rubbish truck. The car veers off into the roof of a house and bursts into flames.
  • Chris describes how he found a family all dead in their crashed car. He describes how all the family members, including their little baby, had been shot several times before they crashed.
  • After Chris falls asleep at his post, Ellie aims the machine gun at him, threatening to shoot him. Then she aims the gun at herself and tells him to ‘shoot her while she is awake’.
  • Robyn sees soldiers creeping silently up to an unknowing Ellie and Fiona waiting in the petrol tanker. Robyn picks up a machinegun and kills all the soldiers. This is despite her saying that it against her beliefs to commit murder and she would never do it.
  • Kevin, Homer and Carrie are shot at while herding the cows over the bridge. Carrie is shot in the side, and we see her bloody wound.
  • Chris lights a fuel-soaked rope, which causes a petrol tanker to explode in a massive fire ball. This destroys a bridge.
  • At the end of the movie, we see the teenagers all standing with shot guns, machineguns and rounds of ammunition draped around their bodies.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, there are several scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:

  • Kevin discovers a snake in his sleeping bag. The snake slithers towards Ellie and Lee. Lee kills it by hitting it over the head with a stick just before it is about to bite Ellie.
  • Kevin suddenly jumps out of the darkness after running away from Ellie and Carrie.
  • The teenagers come home to find their parents are not there. They have been captured and are guarded by soldiers in a makeshift prisoner camp.
  • When the teenagers come back from their camping trip, they discover that Ellie’s dog has been shot and killed.
  • An invading helicopter closely circles the house at night time. It is dark and the noise of the rotors is very loud. It shines a spotlight in the house. The scene is very suspenseful.
  • Soldiers walk through dark streets with their machineguns.
  • The scenes where soldiers creep up on Ellie and Fiona in the petrol tanker are very suspenseful.
  • Cows stampede across the bridge, causing soldiers to jump out of the way quickly. Some soldiers even jump off the bridge.

From 8-13

In addition to the violent and scary scenes and themes mentioned above, this movie contains scenes and themes that could disturb children in this age group. For example, they might be particularly disturbed by the idea of invasion by a hostile force.

Over 13

Younger children in this age group might also find the content of the movie disturbing.

Sexual references

This movie contains some sexual references. For example, Carrie talks to Ellie about ‘sleeping’ with Kevin. Ellie asks Carrie if she wants to go away camping just to ‘have more sex’.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie contains some use of substances. For example, Chris is identified as a ‘stoner’. He is shown smoking marijuana and possibly cigarettes. He also uses the terms ‘bent’ and ‘baked’.

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie contains some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • Carrie wears some low-cut tops that reveal cleavage.
  • Carrie and Kevin kiss passionately many times.
  • Ellie kisses Lee.
  • Homer looks lustily at Fiona undressing down to her bikini.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie: Maggi two-minute noodles and Vegemite.

Coarse language

This movie contains some coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Tomorrow When the War Began is a very dramatic movie. It shows the dangers faced by a group of teenagers who return from a camping trip to find their homeland invaded by a foreign power. Their loved ones have been captured and imprisoned. Although some younger teens might have read the book on which the movie is based, you should be aware that this is definitely a movie for older adolescents and adults. For example, confronting scenes show the teens:

  • struggling to make choices between right and wrong behaviours (given the difficult situation they are in)
  • pushing the limits of their personal beliefs
  • dealing with the reality of the consequences of their actions.

The main messages from this movie are about:

  • fighting for what is important to you and what you believe in
  • valuing friendships, particularly in times of trouble
  • thinking about freedom and how we take it for granted
  • considering the consequences and dangers of war
  • living with the consequences of choices that we make.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with older children include friendship, bravery and confronting your fears, independence and resilience.

You could also discuss the following issues with older children:

  • loss of freedom of speech
  • use of firearms and the debate surrounding gun laws
  • underage and unprotected sex
  • drug use
  • invasion of countries by other nations.