A Boy Called Christmas

image for A Boy Called Christmas

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Not suitable under 5; parental guidance to 8 (sense of peril, threatened violence, sad themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for A Boy Called Christmas
  • a review of A Boy Called Christmas completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 18 November 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to sense of peril, threatened violence, and sad themes (e.g. parental death). Also due to length and complexity of the movie.
Children aged 5–8 Parental guidance recommended due to sense of peril, threatened violence, and sad themes (e.g. parental death).
Children over the age of 8 Ok for this age group.

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: A Boy Called Christmas
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Some scenes may scare young children
Length: 104 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

A day before Christmas, three young children in London do not feel joyous as they are still grieving over their Mum’s death. To make things worse, their Dad has to work late and asks Aunt Ruth to look after them. Ruth (Maggie Smith) is an odd, elderly woman whom the children find a bit weird, but they know that their Mum liked Ruth, and as Ruth starts telling them a tale, they are soon fully absorbed in the story about a boy called Christmas. Through this story they follow young Nikolas (Henry Lawfull), who lives in a little cabin high up in the woods in Finland, with his father (Michiel Huisman), a poor woodcutter, after his mother was killed by a bear. When the King announces an award to the person who manages to bring back hope and magic to the poverty-ridden people, Nikolas’ father sets off North in the quest to find the mythical ‘Elfhelm’ that Nikolas’ mother used to talk about. After weeks of being in the care of his horribly mean aunt, Nikolas realises that the red pointed cap – made by his mother – contains a hidden map showing the way to Elfhelm. Together with his only friend, talking pet mouse Miika (Stephen Merchant), Nikolas sets off to find and support his father – and perhaps to find out why his mother had given him the nickname, “Christmas”, a word that so far had no meaning to him.

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.

Christmas movie; Fantasy; Magic; Adventure.

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:

  • Nikolas’ aunt is emotionally cruel and abusive, forcing Nikolas to sleep outside in the freezing cold, and worst of all, turns his only precious possession – a turnip doll made by his mother – into soup.
  • Nikolas’ father and his fellow men kidnap a young Elf named Kip and keep him in a cage, leaving Kip’s parents and the inhabitants of Elfhelm distraught.
  • When Nikolas and his father free Kip and escape, the men shoot arrows at them.
  • Elfhelm’s leader, Mother Something, has a sceptre that shoots lightning bolts, and she threatens and restrains disobedient subjects.
  • Nikolas is thrown into a prison cell.
  • Nikolas gets caught and nearly eaten by an angry giant troll.

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:

  • Nikolas and his father only just save themselves from a fierce bear, and the audience learns that the bear killed the mother.
  • As Nikolas and his father try to escape from the men, Nikolas’ father falls to his death over the edge of a mountain cliff. Nikolas is wailing and crying with grief.
  • The troll is quite ugly and scary.
  • Parental death is a recurring topic (the London children lost their mother, Nikolas lost his mother, then his father). This could be triggering and upsetting for sensitive children or children with relevant family history.

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.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • The above-mentioned scenes and images may scare or disturb children in this age group.

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.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

A Boy Called Christmas is a live-action, family, fantasy, adventure movie based on Matt Haig’s 2015 novel of the same name. The movie is a reimagination of the story of Father Christmas who lives in the far North of Northern Europe and, with the help of elves and his reindeer Blitzen delivers toys to children all over the world. A fantastic cast, fanciful sets, stunning sceneries, a gripping story, a good portion of humour, and plenty of positive role models and messages make this movie a great choice for a family Christmas movie. Parents need to be aware that this movie tells a story about the origin of Christmas alternative to the Christian story of origin, i.e. Christmas as an important religious celebration the remembrance of Jesus Christ. That being said, parents can still use the movie to reiterate core Christian values and themes such as kindness, forgiveness, honesty, and self-sacrifice. The recurring topic of parental death should be considered as potentially upsetting or triggering. However, the movie has a very constructive approach to this difficult subject, and could also be inspiring and bring a sense of hope to children who have experienced loss, for example by acknowledging and validating the incredible pain, but at the same time stressing that tragedy and loss are inevitable parts of life, and that it is still worth it and important to keep an open heart (“Grief is the price we pay for love.”). This and several scenes marked by a sense of peril and danger make the movie not suitable for a very young audience and warrant parental guidance for children aged 5 to 8.

The main messages from this movie are that you can achieve a lot if you set your mind to it and believe in it; that you should never give up hope; and that you should always fight for what you believe in.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Kindness
  • Courage
  • Gratitude
  • Modesty
  • Persistence
  • Forgiveness
  • Sacrifice
  • Strength to move on after tragedy.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of forgiveness, and the dangers of hate, and projection: Elfhelm’s leader, Mother Something, has been holding on to her grudge and suspicion towards all humans. As a consequence, she has turned bitter, forbidden her subjects to live old traditions, and she cannot imagine that Nikolas could be different. Nikolas shows her that not all humans are the same, and that there is good in people.

Nikolas also leads by example by forgiving his nasty aunt who treated him so badly. Instead of seeking revenge and marvelling in her misery, he shows strength of character and gives her a special Christmas treat.

Furthermore, it is also nice to see how simple, modest and humble the Elves’ gifts are. Unfortunately, this is ruined by a gigantic mountain of presents that the London children find under their tree. Nevertheless, this could be a good opportunity to stress what Christmas should be about.