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Short takes

Not recommended under 12, parental guidance to 15 (subtitles, violence, scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Alpha
  • a review of Alpha completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 4 October 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to use of subtitles (children need to be confident readers), violence and scary scenes.
Children aged 10-11 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes.
Children aged 12-15 Parental guidance is recommended.
Children over the age of 15 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. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Alpha
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild survival themes and sense of peril.
Length: 96 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

In Palaeolithic Europe (20,000 years ago) a young teenager “Keda” (Kodi Smit-McPhee), son of the tribal chief, is finally permitted to join the other hunters of his tribe on their annual bison hunt. The journey is long and arduous and Keda’s mother Rho (Natassia Malthe) is worried that her son is not yet ready for such danger (and killing). She is reassured by the chief (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) that her son has the strength to survive and to help provide for the tribe. As they travel towards the bison, following on ancient pathways marked by their ancestors, it is difficult for Keda to live up to his father’s expectations and his confidence wavers. When they finally make it to the bison, Keda is tragically separated from his tribe and finds himself alone and injured in the wilderness. Whilst defending himself against a pack of wolves, Keda causes serious harm to one of the wolves who is left bleeding and close to death. His kind heart makes him pity the dying creature and he nurses her back to health. Slowly the animal starts to trust Keda and their relationship develops into one of mutual comfort and help. Keda names her ‘Alpha’ (played by chuck, the Czechoslovakian wolfdog) and together they start back towards Keda’s tribe. The journey is full of peril and near-death experiences, but the dog and the young man must work together to survive.


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.

Survival, separation from family, coming of age, prehistoric history, hunting, killing animals, father and son relationships.

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:

  • Members of the tribe kicking and beating each other.
  • Many scenes of hunting, killing and eating animals.

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:

  • Keda is gouged by a bison during the hunt. The scene is graphic and there is blood. Keda is thrown off a cliff by a bison.
  • When Keda’s father believes him to be dead he is beside himself with grief and it is a very emotional and dramatic scene.
  • When Keda realises that he has been left for dead, he is devastated and emotional.
  • One of the hunting party is attacked and eaten by a large predator.
  • Keda is chased and attacked by a wolf pack, and also a pack of hyenas.
  • Keda and Alpha are attacked by a cave lion.
  • Alpha collapses when she can’t go on any longer and Keda is worried that she is going to die.
  • Keda comes across a man who has frozen to death.
  • Keda gets trapped below the ice on a lake and struggles to break through to the surface.

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 of this age will also find the above-mentioned scenes scary or distressing.

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.

  • Children of this age will also find the above-mentioned scenes scary or distressing.

Thirteen and overinfo

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.

  • Children of this age may still find the above-mentioned scenes scary or distressing.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • The boy swims in a lake in his underwear.

Use of substances

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

  • None of concern

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • None of concern

In a nutshell

Alpha is a gripping and visually spectacular tale of peril and survival which seeks to explain the origins of the human-dog relationship. Although it is rated PG, children will need to be confident readers to keep up with the subtitles. Children who are not able to read the subtitles will be able to understand the gist of what is being said and will likely enjoy the movie without being able to read them. However, due to a sense of constant peril and some scary and emotionally charged scenes this movie is more suited to older children. Parents should be aware that there is some controversy as to whether bison were harmed in the making of the film.

The main messages from this movie are that we need others to survive, and that you can find strength within yourself to keep on going, even when it looks like there is no hope.

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

  • Being a responsible and contributing member of our ‘tribe’ or community.
  • Strength and bravery.
  • Being kind-hearted towards fellow animals.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Killing and hunting animals.
  • Feeling pressure to do things before you are emotionally mature enough to handle the consequences.