Martian Child

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Short takes

Not recommended under 10, PG to 13 (Themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Martian Child
  • a review of Martian Child completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 21 February 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to disturbing themes.
Children aged 10-13 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing themes.
Children over the age of 13 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: Martian Child
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Martian Child tells the touching story of a man who adopts a young boy and the struggles they encounter as they forge a new relationship as father and son. 

David Gordon (John Cusack) is a successful science-fiction writer who is reeling from the death of his wife a few years earlier.  David and his late wife had applied to adopt a child and when a child is offered to David he makes the difficult decision to progress with the adoption process on his own. 

Dennis (Bobby Coleman) is a young boy struggling with his own trauma of being abandoned by his parents.  Dennis arrives at David’s home with an array of eccentric and unusual coping behaviours and the claim that he is a visitor from Mars who will soon be going home.

David realises quickly that he has a lot to learn in his new role as a parent of a very troubled little boy and relies heavily on the advice and support of his friend (Amanda Peet), sister (Joan Cusack) and manager (Oliver Platt) to get him through.  At times, David begins to wonder whether he is fit for the challenge of fatherhood and even begins to question whether Dennis’s Martian claims may actually hold some truth.


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.

Parental abandonment of a child; death and grief; adoption

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 no physical person-to-person violence in this movie.  There is one scene where David and Dennis smash plates and other valuables throughout the house. Also, David loses his temper with Dennis during one scene but regains control quickly.

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:

  • During one scene the much loved family dog dies, of natural causes, in Dennis’s bedroom.  The dead dog is shown and Dennis and David are both seen to be visibly distressed.

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 in this age group may also be disturbed by the scenes described above.

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 scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen. The theme of loss is a major component of this movie, including the following including the following:

  • The abandonment of Dennis by his parents which results in him being adopted by David.
  • Reference to the death of David’s wife.
  • Certain scenes throughout the movie focus on the emotional responses that arise from the losses that the two main characters have experienced.  At times, this may be distressing for children and require parental guidance to help them to understand what they are seeing.

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 also be disturbed or distressed by some of the scenes and themes as mentioned above and require parental discussion.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Nike
  • Lucky Charms
  • Cheerios
  • M&M’s
  • Mars Bar
  • Pepsi
  • Heinekin
  • Crayola
  • SAAB

Sexual references

None of concern.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:
•    a brief and awkward kiss by two consenting adults.

Use of substances

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

  • a number of scenes throughout the movie where adults are seen to be drinking beer.  The drinking of alcohol is done in moderation and in social settings such as at a barbeque, dinner party and at home.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • use of the term ‘Jesus’ as an expletive
  • use of insults such as ‘weird’ and ‘stupid’

In a nutshell

Martian Child tells the story of a man’s determination to reach out to a little boy who has shut himself off from the world, so that together they can rediscover the ability to love and trust after loss.

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

  • Individuality, standing out from the crowd and being different
  • Family values of love, support, trust and honesty
  • Determination and not giving up

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

  • teasing those who are different
  • looking beyond the superficial
  • the impact of loss on individuals
  • stealing
  • alienation and ways of coping with it
  • differences between children and adults and how these can be resolved