Australian Council on Children and the Media

Black Beauty (2020)

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Not suitable under 5; parental guidance to 10 (violence, themes, sense of peril)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Black Beauty (2020)
  • a review of Black Beauty (2020) completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 December 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to violence, themes and a sense of peril.
Children aged 5–10 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, themes and a sense of peril.
Children over the age of 10 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: Black Beauty (2020)
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length 110 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Born free in a beautiful meadow to a herd of wild stallions, Beauty (voice of Kate Winslet) does not know what is in store for her when she happens across humans for the first time. Blaming herself for what happens, Beauty and the other horses are captured and sold on, many meeting an unsavoury end. A horse trainer named John (Iain Glen) sees something special in Beauty and takes her to a ranch to be broken, but Beauty will not yield to him. When John’s orphaned niece, Jo (Mackenzie Foy), comes to live with him, she and Beauty develop an unbreakable bond. They share the pain of a tragic past, find strength in each other and slowly an incredible friendship begins to form, and their spirits begin to heal. When a tragic fire ruins the stables, Beauty is leased out to a new owner. Jo vows that she will save enough money to buy Beauty herself and promises that no matter what happens she will find her and that they will be together again. Beauty is bought and sold numerous times to various individuals until all trace of her seems lost but Jo never gives up and never stops looking and Beauty learns that the power of love is what keeps you alive even through the most difficult times.

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.

Death of parents; Separation of family; Animal distress; Cruelty to animals; Snobbery and the discrepancy between those who have great wealth and those who have very little.

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:

  • Occasionally wild horses bite and kick each other.
  • A bunch of cowboys round up and forcibly remove a herd of wild mustangs from their home. Families are separated and Beauty never sees her mother again. The horses are not treated well, and Beauty is lucky to be taken by John who hopes to break her and sell her on.
  • Jo’s parents are killed in a car crash. Their death is not shown but the grief of those left behind is clearly depicted.
  • It is hinted that Beauty will be killed if she is not broken.
  • Beauty repeatedly chases a boy out of the paddock every time he tries to feed her. He must shove himself through the fence or appear to be trampled.
  • When John tries to break Beauty, she throws him off and he is dragged across the ground with his foot caught in a stirrup.
  • A girl digs her spurs into Beauty’s side and leaves holes where her heels where. Later she pushes Beauty to the point that she hurts her leg.
  • Jo pushes a nasty girl into a pile of dirty hay.
  • A horse dies after being mistreated; its stiff body is shown in the back of a cart.
  • When Beauty collapses in the street after seeing the body of her friend, the owner who mistreats her attempts to have her taken away and presumably killed.

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:

  • Children in this age group are likely to find certain scenes (described below) distressing.

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:

  • When the stables catch on fire, the horses are extremely distressed and the fire spreads quickly. Jo is the first one to notice and races back and forth into the burning building to save as many horses as she can. The scene is intense and emotionally charged and there are moments when viewers are left to wonder if she and the horses will survive.
  • One of Beauty’s owners uses her to rescue people trapped in mountainous terrain or lost in the wilderness. There are numerous scenes where she is in peril including when she nearly slides off a cliff and when she saves two men from certain death in a raging river.
  • Beauty nearly dies after catching cold and being unattended. She slips in and out of consciousness while her owner strokes her head and all she can think of or recall is Jo and the whispered promise that Jo would find her no matter how long it takes or how far she must go to do so.
  • Beauty is sold for hard labour again and again and is mistreated by numerous owners. Seeing how poorly she is treated and how she continues to struggle through terrible circumstances while holding fast to Jo’s memory is nothing short of heartbreaking and could easily upset many young viewers.

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:

  • Some children in this age group are likely to find the above-mentioned scenes upsetting.

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.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A couple of girls attempt to flirt with a boy but he sees Jo and ignores them.

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Jo and her husband share a kiss.

Use of substances

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

  • Adults drink champagne at a racing event. A husband asks his wife how much she has had to drink and she replies, “just enough”.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Jo occasionally uses the word “sucks” to describe her life when she is first forced to live with her uncle.

In a nutshell

Black Beauty is an emotional drama and the latest version of a classic tale based on the 1877 book by Anna Sewell. It captures the profound relationship and unbreakable bond that can be shared between humans and animals but due to the number of potentially upsetting scenes this film is best suited to older children and adults. The film will appeal to anyone who loves horses.

The main messages from this movie are that some spirits, be they horse or human, can never be broken and that even if your strength is tested a thousand times to never give up on hope or love.

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

  • Compassion
  • Persistence
  • Loyalty
  • Determination
  • Resilience
  • Hope
  • Love and Faith.

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

  • The actions of breaking a horse and the ramifications of not doing so.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Thoughtlessness, ineptitude, vanity and putting your own desires before the needs of a horse.
  • Making fun of or belittling those who have less than you.

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