Story

T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett) is the title character of The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. He’s a 10-year-old child prodigy with a passion for cartography, scientific observation and invention. T.S. lives on a range in Montana with his entomologist mother, Dr Clair (Helena Bonham Carter), his father (Callum Keith Rennie), who dreams of being a cowboy, and his teenage sister, Gracie (Niamh Wilson), who wants to become Miss America.

T.S.’s twin brother Layton (Jakob Davies) has died in a shooting accident involving T.S. Although the entire family is grieving, nobody talks about the accident and T.S. is very distressed. He blames himself for the accident and has imaginary visits from his dead brother.

One day after attending a lecture on perpetual motion, T.S. decides to invent a perpetual motion machine and submits his blueprints to the Smithsonian. Sometime later, he gets a call from G.H. Jibsen (Judy Davis) from the museum who, believing T.S. to be an adult, informs him that he has won a prestigious award for his machine. Miss Jibsen invites T.S. to Washington to accept the award and give a speech.

Without telling his family, T.S. packs a suitcase and sets off on an eventful journey to Washington D.C.

Themes

Death of a family member; guilt and grief; family relationships; child prodigies

Violence

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet has scenes related to the accidental gun death of a young child. It also has action and peril involving young children, and scenes that show injury to animals, including some blood and gore. For example:

  • A young boy fires a rifle at a cat with a tin can tied to its tail. The cat runs away with the tin can dragging behind it.
  • A flashback scene shows a barn. There is the sound of a gunshot and a bright flash from the barn. Then we hear a monologue about how a young boy died.
  • A married couple has a heated argument, shouting at each other.
  • A truck driver tells T.S. that he joined the army to ‘meet interesting people and kill them’.
  • A woman slaps another woman hard across the face. A man punches a second man in the face and knocks him to the ground. 

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet has some scenes that could scare or disturb children aged under five years. For example:

  • Several scenes show images of large dead insects, which are being examined by an entomologist. There are several stuffed animals in life-like poses, including a mountain lion, a coyote and an eagle.
  • A rattlesnake confronts T.S. CGI makes the snake appear unrealistically large and threatening (from the boy’s perspective) as it rears up.
  • One scene shows imaginary images of a Halloween jack-o’-lantern pumpkin under a young boy’s bed.
  • The pumpkin has scary cut-out eyes and a mouth with jagged teeth. When the boy gets out of bed and puts his feet on the ground, the pumpkin’s mouth starts making biting movements.
  • There is a dream-like image of the top of a young boy’s head with smoke pouring from his hair as if his head is about to burst into flames

From 5-8
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • T.S. is disturbed by the accidental shooting of his twin brother. Throughout the movie he talks about his involvement and his belief that he was responsible for his brother’s death. In an extended and emotionally intense scene he tells an adult audience about the incident and the fact that his family won’t talk about it. There are flashback images of him sitting on a bathroom floor while his older sister holds him and his mother cries. Throughout the movie T.S. has imaginary conversations with his dead brother. 
  • The movie has several perilous scenes involving T.S. One shows him jumping onto an inclined conveyor belt, riding it to the top and then jumping from the conveyor onto a moving freight train. In another scene a security guard chases him. He jumps across a gap in a bridge and almost falls. He is injured by the impact, grimacing in pain and clutching his side. Later we see images of his badly bruised ribs, and we hear that he has several broken ribs.
  • T.S. feeds his dog unknown herbs and then forces his dog to vomit. When his mother appears he kneels down and pretends to vomit. There is a small puddle of vomit on the ground. In a later scene we see him vomit into a sink.
  • A man on a ranch brands a young calf. He pins the calf to the ground and then presses a hot branding iron into the calf’s rump. There is a loud hissing sound, and smoke bellows from the branding iron.
  • A goat is entangled in barbed wire and covered in blood.

From 8-13
Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

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

Sexual references

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet has some sexual references. For example:

  • A woman talks about the objectification of women in beauty pageants.
  • A young boy says, ‘If you make a baby, it means you love each other’.
  • After being teased at school, a young boy asks his mother if she has AIDS.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet shows some use of substances. For example:

  • Scenes show a man sitting in a lounge chair sipping whisky from a glass. T.S. says his father takes a sip of whisky from his glass every 45 seconds.
  • A woman drinks champagne from a glass and is later seen slurring her words and acting abusively.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet shows some US fast food brands.

Coarse language

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet contains coarse language and name-calling.

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet is an adventure drama suited to older adolescent and adult audiences. On the surface it’s about a young boy’s lone journey across the US, but it’s also a story about facing emotional demons and a child’s desire for his parents’ love and respect. The movie is thought-provoking and at times emotionally intense, although with a quirky whimsical feel.

It contains violence, disturbing themes and scenes, and coarse language. This makes it unsuitable for children and tweens, and we strongly recommend parental guidance for younger teenagers.

These are the main messages from this movie:

  • Parental love and respect is crucial to a child’s health, happiness and wellbeing.
  • Self-blame is destructive and debilitating.