Australian Council on Children and the Media

Mr Pip

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Short takes

Not suitable under 15 due to disturbing themes and violence

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Mr Pip
  • a review of Mr Pip completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 11 November 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not suitable due to disturbing themes and violence
Children 15 and over 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: Mr Pip
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and violence
Length 115 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Mr Pip is a drama set in Bougainville, where a civil war has most of the community living in fear. Although the school has been closed down for some time, Mr Tom Watts (Hugh Laurie) – the only white man left on the island – decides to reopen it and run classes himself, despite having no background in teaching. He begins to read Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations to the children, and a young girl named Matilda (Xzannjah) finds particular solace in the famous narrative. She begins to fantasise about living in 19th century Britain as she falls in love with Dickens’ character Pip.

However, after she innocently scribes ‘Pip’ into the sand on the beach, the soldiers oppressing the village arrive and demand to know where the apparent rebel leader Pip is being hidden. Mr Watts and Matilda try to convince them that he is merely a fictional character in a Charles Dickens novel but the soldiers refuse to believe them and there are dire consequences for Matilda, her mother and Mr Watts.

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.

Personal sacrifice; rape in war;death of family members; life under military occupation; the power of reading

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:

  • The film is set during a civil war, and soldiers and military men with weapons are seen frequently harassing the villagers.
  • When Mr Watts tells the soldiers that he is Mr Pip, he is shot twice in front of the rest of the village. His body falls to the ground, and there is blood and a wound visible on his chest.
  • After Mr Watts is shot twice, his body is dragged away by several soldiers and it is implied that they cut it up with machetes and feed it to pigs. 
  • After Dolores stands up for Mr Watts and tells the soldiers that he was a good man, she is dragged away from the crowd and it is implied that she is gang raped. She appears quite bloody and beaten after this.
  • Dolores is taken by the soldiers and cut into pieces with machetes – this happens off screen, but there are screams and sound effects that audiences hear.
  • One of the young boys in the village is taken by several men to be killed. His mother is distraught and asks to go with him – both their bodies are later seen being buried.
  • After one of the raids by the soldiers, the villagers see a dog that has been killed and left on the street with its stomach cut open. A young boy cries as he sits near the dog.

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.

Children in this age group will be scared by the violent scenes described above

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 will also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

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 in this age group are also very likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

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.

Younger children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by some of the scenes described above

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Threatened rape (see under violence)

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Rape (see under violence)

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • There are several uses the word ‘shit’.
  • While talking about Charles Dickens, one woman comments ‘I know of a Mr Dickheads’

In a nutshell

The touching story of Mr Pip highlights the strength of the human spirit. Against very challenging odds Matilda remains steadfast in her belief that life will improve in the future. She doesn’t want to feel ashamed of her birth place, but longs for a place that feels more like a safe haven or a stable home. Matilda’s mother Dolores believes that stories must teach you something, and Matilda’s reading of Charles Dickens ultimately teaches her about choices, freedom and independence, as well as the importance of controlling your own fate.

The film raises some important issues to discuss with older teenagers, but the film’s violence and disturbing themes makes it unsuitable for younger teens and children.

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

  • The importance of stories and narratives in helping individuals to deal with trauma, shape their own behaviour and develop personal ideas of what constitutes right and wrong.
  • Money and social standing have nothing to do with an individual’s conduct and how they present themselves.

 Parents may also wish to discuss other issues such as:

  • Civil war and the impact of military occupation.
  • Racial issues and the loneliness that arises from being in a country where you don’t really belong.
  • The impact of the death of a parent or a child, and the emotional fallout that may occur after either.

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