Australian Council on Children and the Media

Across the Universe

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Short takes

Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 (Themes, disturbing scenes, drug references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Across the Universe
  • a review of Across the Universe completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 1 November 2007.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to themes, disturbing scenes and drug references
Children over the age of 13 Parental guidance recommended due to themes, disturbing scenes and drug references.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Across the Universe
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Moderate violence, Infrequent moderate coarse language, Drug references and nudity
Length 133 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Across the Universe is a lively musical set in the 60’s. It interweaves the songs written by the Beatles with the story of Jude (Jim Sturgess) who travels across the Atlantic from Liverpool to the USA to find the father he has never known. Jude is befriended by a college dropout, Max (Joe Anderson), who introduces Jude to his sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). Jude and Max move to an apartment in New York together.
After Lucy’s boyfriend is killed in Vietnam she joins Max in New York and she and Jude fall in love. Jude tries to make a living as a graphic artist while Lucy is studying at university. The plot turns serious when Max is called up to fight in the Vietnam War. Lucy joins the Vietnam moratorium marches but gets caught up in a radical anti-war movement that goes further than she had expected. Her political activity separates her from Jude who is arrested in a riot and sent back to Liverpool.
Unable to resume his life in Liverpool and forget Lucy, Jude returns to America to see if he can rekindle their relationship.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

War, political protest, drug use.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Rough play on a baseball field
  • Max and his friends drive golf balls through dormitory windows while drunk
  • Max goes sliding down the bowling alley and collides with the pins.
  • Several riot scenes are shown with police brutality – police viciously beating protestors
  • A young boy is shot and kicked
  • Buildings are set on fire
  • A girl is shown with a bruised face after being beaten by her boyfriend (not shown)
  • War scenes are shown where soldiers are shooting and being shot at
  • Jude punches a man, which results in a general fight.
  • Lucy is grabbed and handled roughly by police during a riot.
  • Jude is beaten by police during a riot and is shown with a blood on his head and face

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • surreal and psychedelic imagery of bodies that appear dead floating in the water
  • underwater scenes of nude people floating and swimming.
  • war scenes and riots
  • a young boy is shown dead in a coffin with people at his funeral grieving
  • Max is shown lying in bed a hospital ward with a bandage around his head. Several other wounded men are in beds near him. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Images of war scenes and riots could disturb children in this age group, especially the young boy being shot and killed.
  • Jude being beaten by the police

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some children in this age group could be disturbed by the violence and the anti-authoritarian culture in this movie.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Jude’s father tells him he remembers having some ‘good times’ in Liverpool during the war (WWII) - referring to the fact that he’d fathered Jude.
  • Looking at one of Lucy’s friends, Max asks “When did Emily get tits?”
  • A female character, Prudence (T.V. Carpio), is gay
  • When Max’s friends are devising ways of him to avoid the draft, they advise him to pretend he’s a homosexual, say that he’s raped little children and put track marks on his arm to pretend he’s a junkie.
  • mention of masturbating alligators
  • Some of the musical lyrics are provocative (eg in ‘I am the Walrus’)

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • provocative dancing in skimpy clothing
  • Jude and Lucy kiss passionately and are seen in bed together
  • Sadie (Dana Fuchs) and JoJo (Martin Luther) kiss passionately
  • Women are shown nude in the underwater scene
  • Jude draws Lucy in the nude and they discuss whether he has got her nipple right in the drawing

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • smoking of tobacco and marijuana
  • use of hallucinogenic drugs with no apparent adverse effects
  • frequent drinking of alcohol

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Bastard
  • Shit
  • Crap
  • Oh my God
  • Screw
  • Piss
  • Bitch
  • Arse
  • Fuck

In a nutshell

Across the Universe is a colourful, highly original musical that captures the essence of the late 1960’s. The imagery is very powerful and surreal at times, capturing both the peace-loving, free-thinking spirit of the time and the turbulence of anti-war riots and the terrible realities of war.
This movie could give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • casual sex
  • taking drugs
  • war
  • political protest

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