Australian Council on Children and the Media

Circle of Lies

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Not suitable under 15, OK over this age group, but adult guidance recommended (Strong themes; violence including sexual assault; sexual references; alcohol abuse and coarse language).

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Circle of Lies
  • a review of Circle of Lies completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 2 September 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not suitable due to strong themes, violence including sexual assault, sexual references, alcohol abuse and coarse language.
Children 15 and over Recommended viewing, but with adult guidance due to strong 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: Circle of Lies
Classification: MA15+
Consumer advice lines: Strong themes, sexual references and sex scene
Length 81 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Circle of Lies is an Australian-made drama that tackles issues such as high school popularity, bullying and sexual assault. On the first day of a new school year, Denise Dixon (Hilary Caitens) – once the most popular girl in the school – is back. Her former best friend Kirsty (Anna Lawrence) now dominates Short Beach High, and she’s on a mission to destroy Denise and any semblance of a reputation she has left. Kirsty has told the entire school details of Denise’s apparent sexual exploits, stolen her ex-boyfriend Aiden (Ryan Harrison) and continues to take every available opportunity to use the rumour-mill for her own gain.

 Although almost every one of her peers turns on Denise, her old friends Linda (Karina Banno) and Greg (Luke Webb) never doubt her innocence. Gradually, Aiden also comes to see the truth of the situation, and recognises Kirsty for what she really is – a manipulative liar. With her friends standing by her, Denise is able to find the strength to defend herself publically against the outrageous lies Kirsty has spread, gradually becoming a more confident and self-assured person as a result.  

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.

Bullying; sexual assault; alcohol abuse; relationships and love; friendship; parental neglect

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:

  • During an argument on the beach, Kirsty throws sand at Denise’s face while yelling at her to leave.
  • Aiden violently shoves another male student against a locker to defend Denise.
  • Kirsty grabs Denise by the neck, pushes her up against a wall and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t stay away from Aiden – Kirsty screams at her loudly before releasing Denise, who is crying and distraught during the incident. 
  • At the beach party, Aiden gets a glass bottle thrown at his head after he reveals publically that he loves Denise.
  • Brief flashbacks to the gang rape of Denise, showing her being held down by male hands

Material that may scare or disturb children

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.

Much of the film's content with strong themes, and scenes of bullying and sexual assault is likely to disturb children under 15 and is not suitable for this age group.

Product placement

  • Alcohol
  • Mobile phones

Sexual references

There are a significant number of sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Many of the school children make remarks about Denise’s apparent sexual behaviour – they say that she has had a “boob job”, that she is a “walking STD” after having had sex with a significant number of men, and that she engaged in a “gangbang orgy” with a group of thirty men at a party.
  • Aiden talks with his friends about the apparent “handjobs” that Denise gave to many people, according to the rumours. Kirsty also offers to give Aiden a handjob when he complains that she has never “put out” and had sex with him over the course of their relationship.
  • Denholm makes suggestive bodily movements, thrusting his hips forward as he shouts out “Aiden is a sex machine!” while Aiden talks to a female friend.
  • Two of the boys watch a girl undressing at the beach – one asks “Would you hit that?”, while the other replies “I have hit that” in reference to having had sex with her.
  • One of the boys sticky-tapes a sign to Denise’s lower back which says “Insert here” with an arrow pointing downwards.
  • Denholm asks Aiden “How regularly are you administering Kirsty your hot beef injection?”
  • Several boys are discussing how Denise apparently “infected others with herpes and genital warts” as a result of her sexual activity. They go on to call her a “walking talking STD”.
  • In an effort to make Denise jealous, Kirsty references her sexual activity with Aiden by saying “He is such a great fuck; it’s a pity you were too frigid to give him a go”.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Throughout the film, both girls and boys are seen surfing and lying on the beach in bathers and bikinis.
  • There are several instances where characters are seen kissing – Denise is seen kissing Aiden multiple times, several unknown characters are seen kissing in a montage of the teenagers’ activity on the beach, and Kirsty is seen kissing Aiden while lying on a bed.
  • Kirsty is seen topless, having sex with Denholm while Aiden watches through a window

Use of substances

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

  • Denise is seen smoking a cigarette twice during the film.
  • In flashbacks to the party, a man spike Denise’s drink with a date-rape drug. 
  • Aiden drinks beer on the beach alone after the swimming race.
  • Kirsty is seen doing several alcoholic shots before her friend’s party, and is later seen acting highly intoxicated.
  • At the beach party, all of the teenagers are seen drinking alcohol and dancing.

Coarse language

There is a significant amount of coarse language in the film, including:

  • Kirsty (as well as the majority of her school peers) repeatedly calls Denise a ‘slag’, a ‘slut’ and a ‘whore’. Kirsty also tells Denise to “just piss off”, calling her a “bitchface”. She goes on to tell her friends that she hopes “that stupid bitch goes blind”.
  • Kirsty refers to a party where she says Denise ‘fucked thirty guys’ and had a ‘gangbang orgy’.
  • When Denholm gets pushed into the pool by another boy, he says “You’d better run; you little prick”.
  • The school swimming coach tells the boys “You need to get your shit together”, and also refers to Denise as a “slag” when talking to Aiden.
  • Denise has “slut’ written on her school locker, and her photograph is put up all over the school grounds with the word “slag” written across it.
  • Aiden tells his mother to “mind your own fucking business” when she says something disrespectful of Denise.

In a nutshell

Circle of Lies is a powerful film that speaks to the nature of friendship, trust and betrayal. It highlights the pervasive consequences that a single action may have, as well as the dangerous slope of power and popularity on which teenagers and young adults may find themselves. The film demonstrates the importance of taking a stand, and having the strength to defend yourself or what you believe in. It also highlights the fact that situations are often far more complex than many people realise, and that third-party reports of events can be incredibly misrepresentative of reality.

The MA15+ rating is well deserved as the film’s content is unsuitable for under 15s and teenagers over 15 would benefit from adult guidance due to the strong themes. It would make a very good discussion starter for parents who wish to tackle these themes with older children, or for senior school classes.

The main messages from this movie are that:

  • No matter how bad things get, they can always be fixed.
  • People should never give up on themselves, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
  • Loyal friends are very important
  • You have to make a stand and face the situations you find difficult in order to grow as a person.

Parents and teachers who watch this movie with teenagers could discuss:

  • Bullying, and the serious psychological and social repercussions that can eventuate.
  • The issue of sexual assault and date-rape, as well as the importance of not accepting drinks from individuals you don’t know well.
  • The consequences of your individual choices both upon your own life, as well as the lives of others.

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