image for Blueback

Short takes

Not recommended under 8; parental guidance to 9 (themes, lack of interest for younger viewers)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Blueback
  • a review of Blueback completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 6 January 2023.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to themes and lack of interest for younger viewers.
Children aged 8–9 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and lack of interest for younger viewers.
Children over the age of 9 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: Blueback
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 103 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Abby Jackson (Mia Wasikowska), a marine biologist, receives a call telling her that her mother has had a stroke and she needs to go home. Abby returns to Longboat Bay, which brings back memories of growing up there with her mum, Dora (Radha Mitchell). As a young child, Abby (Ariel Donoghue) was introduced to deep sea diving by Dora, a passionate activist and defender of the ocean and all its creatures. Abby befriends a blue groper, which she names ‘Blueback’, who is playful and friendly. Gropers live in the same area for 70 years, so each time Abby and Dora dive they meet their friend.

Later, as a 15-year-old, Abby (Ilsa Fogg) joins her mother in protesting against the development of Longboat Bay and the dredging of the waters to allow for larger boats to visit. Abby introduces her friend, Briggs (Pedrea Jackson), an indigenous Australian, to Blueback. Briggs is also passionate about saving the ocean creatures. When divers arrive with spear guns, Abby has to protect Blueback and is nearly shot herself in the process. Her heroic stand, however, ultimately saves the Bay.


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.

Conservation; Marine creatures; Activism.

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:

  • Dora ties herself to a truck with chains during a protest. A policeman tackles a man to the ground.
  • Dora and Abby argue on a couple of occasions. Dora yells at her daughter and calls her a coward.
  • Divers enter the bay and shoot at fish with their spear guns.
  • Abby tries to protect Blueback from the divers with their spear guns. She pushes at Blueback to try and make him swim away but Blueback thinks it’s a game. She eventually punches him but still he doesn’t go. Abby puts her own body in front of Blueback to protect him from the spears and is almost shot but is saved in time.

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:

  • Blueback appears suddenly and is quite a large fish, scaring Abby who thinks it’s a shark.

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:

  • Dora makes Abby dive quite deep at 8 years of age although Abby doesn’t want to, fearing that it’s too deep for her.

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:

  • Dora has had a stroke and is unable to speak. At first, she doesn’t recognise Abby.
  • Dora tells Abby that her father’s body was found after being missing for some time. It was thought he was attacked by a tiger shark.
  • Abby and Dora’s friend, Macca, is missing from his boat. Dora dives down and returns obviously upset and tells Abby that she’s found Macca’s body on the ocean floor. She suspects he’s had a heart attack and drowned. Abby cries at the news and has to help Dora pull his body up by ropes (not actually shown).
  • Dora doesn’t want Abby to go away to school – she finds it hard to let go. Dora gets quite upset about her leaving.
  • At the end of the movie, Dora dies. This isn’t shown but a funeral is held for her on the beach.

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.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • As teens, Abby and Briggs hold hands and kiss.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

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

  • Drinking at a barbecue.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • What in the living Hell?
  • Damn
  • Name calling, such as, “lunatic”.

In a nutshell

Blueback is an adventure movie based on the popular book by Tim Winton. The cinematography and underwater cinematography are stunning along the Western Australian Coast. The movie’s message is about protecting our environment and coastal reefs and while there is little in the movie that is scary, there are a couple of violent scenes and a couple of characters die in the course of the film. It is therefore not recommended for children under 8 and it is better suited for families with older children.

The main messages from this movie are that we are custodians of our land and environment and, as such, we must look after it; and to stand up for what you believe in.

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

  • The courage of your convictions
  • Bravery
  • Making your voice heard.

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

  • Why would the Councillors dismiss the opinion of a 15-year-old girl? Surely young people should have a say in what matters to them. Parents could encourage their children to speak up about what they believe in.