Australian Council on Children and the Media

Beaver, The

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Not recommended under 15 (violence; Disturbing scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Beaver, The
  • a review of Beaver, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 8 August 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes.

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: Beaver, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, sexual references and coarse language
Length 91 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Beaver is an unusual and intense film about Walter Black (Mel Gibson), a successful business executive and father of two, who is struggling to live with a debilitating mental illness.  Walter’s wife Meredith (Jodie Foster) becomes fed up with Walter’s continued disengagement from her and their two children, Porter (Anton Yelchin) and Henry (Riley Stewart).  She asks Walter to move out of the family home.  Alone and desperately depressed Walter hits rock bottom attempting to end his misery by taking his own life. 
Walter’s turning point comes when he stumbles upon a beaver hand puppet in a rubbish bin and finds that he can better relate to, and communicate with, those he loves while using the puppet’s persona. 

Walter’s life seems to be almost miraculously cured with the beaver as his life support. However when Walter tries to separate himself from the beaver puppet and find his own voice, things become complicated.

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.

Suicide; mental illness; family breakdown

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:

  • There is a theme of self harm throughout this movie, including verbal references to Walter’s father killing himself and another reference to Norah’s brother who dies from an overdose
  • Walter is severely depressed at the beginning of the film and there are scenes showing him over-medicating with prescription medicines.  He drinks to excess, then collapses and a television falls on top of him.  He also attempts suicide twice, once by hanging himself and another by jumping off a building
  • When Walter attempts to separate himself from the beaver puppet, the beaver is angry and abusive towards Walter.  When he tries to remove the puppet from his hand, the puppet becomes physically abusive and hits Walter, punches him, smashes a lamp over his head and throws him to the ground.  This is a distressing scene as in essence Walter is harming himself through the puppet persona.
  • Porter is caught tagging (spray graffiti) and is taken to the police station where Walter and Meredith pick him up.  Porter and the beaver puppet have an altercation and Walter (via the beaver) hits Porter and he falls into the wall.  Porter is not hurt but is upset.
  • When Walter regains consciousness from the fight that he has with the beaver he takes the beaver down to his tool room and builds the puppet a tomb.  He then puts his arm through a rotating saw to cut off the puppet (and therefore his arm).  His son, Porter finds him.  The scene is very intense - although the actual incident is not seen it is heard.  Porter and Walter are seen after the event in the hospital covered with blood.

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.

Children under five are likely to be confused and scared by scenes involving the beaver puppet which they may see as a separate character

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 confused and disturbed by the relationship between Walter and the puppet, and also scenes of family distress, including

  • Henry talks of a boy in his class calling him a ball-licker. Henry appears to have no friends and is often ignored by his family.
  • Walter and Meredith separate at the beginning of the movie.  When Walter leaves the family home, Meredith is visibly upset and Henry struggles with this separation
  • Porter has his own emotional difficulties and there are a number of scenes where he hits his head on his bedroom wall as a means of coping.  During one scene Porter manages to hit his head completely through his wall.

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 disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Henry talks of a boy in his class calling him a “ball-licker”.  It is implied that Henry has no friends and is often ignored by his family and friends.
  • Walter and Meredith separate at the beginning of the movie.  When Walter leaves the family home, Meredith is visibly upset and Henry also struggles with the separation
  • Porter has his own emotional difficulties and there are a number of scenes where he hits his head on his bedroom wall as a means of coping.  During one scene Porter manages to slam his head through his bedroom wall.

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.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Product placement

There is some product placement in this movie including;

  • Apple Computers
  • Volkswagen cars
  • Toys R Us
  • GQ Magazine

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • A number of brief scenes where the husband and wife are seen having sex in bed and in the shower.  The scenes are not overly graphic and nudity is minimal.
  • Porter kisses a girl he goes to school with

Use of substances

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

  • Walter buys a case of alcohol and is seen drinking to excess
  • Meredith drinks a glass of wine with her dinner but is not seen to drink to excess
  • Walter is seen taking medications for his depression and it is evident in many scenes that he is over medicating
  • There is a reference to Porter purchasing ‘weed’

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • shit
  • ball-licker
  • fuck
  • crap
  • turd
  • douche
  • wanker
  • psycho

In a nutshell

The Beaver is an intense exploration of one man’s struggle to deal with his severe mental illness and the consequent affect it has on his family. Despite the animal title, the presence of a puppet and child actors in the cast, it is definitely not a film for children or younger teens

Parents of older adolescents may wish to discuss what the film shows about mental illness, its management and its impact on family functioning/ parent child relationships/ marital relationships

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