New Boy, The

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Not suitable under 10; parental guidance to 13 (violence, themes, distressing scenes, language)

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This topic contains:

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

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not suitable due to violence, themes, distressing scenes, and language.
Children aged 10–13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, themes, distressing scenes, and language.
Children aged 14 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. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: New Boy, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and violence
Length: 116 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

A wild orphan, referred to as ‘New Boy’ (Aswan Reid), is taken from his ancestral lands and brought to a small orphanage run by Sister Eileen (Cate Blanchett) and Sister Mum (Deborah Mailman) in the middle of outback New South Wales. With the help of a labourer called George (Wayne Blair), the nuns look after a group of boys, including Head Boy Michael (Shane Brady), until they are old enough to go off to work on sheep stations. Unable to speak English, New Boy tries to make sense of his surroundings and the way he is now expected to live, often with surprising results. When a statue depicting the crucifixion of Jesus arrives, New Boy develops a fascination with it. The nuns sense a specialness about New Boy and occasionally treat him differently, making allowances that otherwise would not have been permitted. New Boy, himself, seems to have a magical touch and takes great pleasure and pride in it as it brings him comfort and solace in difficult times and allows him to help and heal in ways that the adults around him cannot explain or truly understand. Will his newfound religious fascination dim his innate power, or will New Boy find a way to keep the magic that resides in his heart and connects him to his country, while learning to live as the nuns instruct?


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.

The loss of culture and identity; Assimilation; Loss of family; The struggle for survival; Religious fervour; Deceitfulness.

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:

  • New Boy strangles a man, leaving him unconscious in the desert.
  • New Boy is hit in the head with a boomerang and knocked unconscious.
  • New Boy is hauled in a sack, and is dragged and chucked around in the process of being taken to the orphanage.
  • Sister Eileen fights a police officer for getting rough with and scaring New Boy.
  • One of the boys punches New Boy in the stomach and New Boy retaliates, punching the other so hard that he is knocked out.
  • Michael canes one of the other boys for stealing food. The boy is shown with large red welts on his palms.
  • New Boy shoves Michael for caning the other child.
  • A snake is hit and killed with rocks after it bites one of the boys.
  • The boys beat field mice to death with bats and clubs.
  • Nails are hammered into the hands of a statue of Jesus and New Boy sees blood dripping from the hands, down onto the ground.
  • George slaughters a sheep, slitting its throat and allowing its blood to ooze out.
  • New Boy kills two lambs by bashing their skills in. He also kills and skewers three lizards and brings them to the kitchen.
  • Sister Eileen smashes a bunch of baby snakes on the floor of the church.
  • New Boy crucifies himself by forcing the nails that went through the hands of the statue of Jesus into his own palms.

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.

  • Nothing further noted, though the scenes and images mentioned below may also scare or disturb some children in this age group.

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:

  • Michael is bitten by a snake and faints as the poison works its way through his body. George is frantic as he attempts to suck the poison out. The other boys run to get help, while the New Boy works his magic and seems to draw out some sort of black blood. Michael is quite unwell but is able to recover.
  • The scenes in which the boys are killing field mice by bashing them to death while the adults harvest the wheat; when the sheep is slaughtered by George; and when the New Boy is shown to have killed the lambs and lizards, could all be upsetting to some children.
  • The scene where New Boy has driven nails into his own palms and is sitting on the floor of the church with blood all over him, until a horrified Sister Eileen carries him away, may be upsetting and confusing for some children.

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.

  • Nothing further noted.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

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

  • Sister Eileen often drinks wine in her room and appears to have alcoholic tendencies.
  • New Boy is thirsty and cannot find water, so he pours himself some wine from Sister Eileen’s jug and drinks that instead.
  • New Boy finds a bottle of wine but struggles to open it. He smashes the top off the bottle and drinks from the broken lower half.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Shit
  • Whore
  • Slut
  • Stupid
  • Little bugger
  • Little darkie
  • Dickhead.

In a nutshell

The New Boy is an outback drama, set in 1940’s wartime Australia. Filmed, written and directed by Indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton, it boasts wonderful performances set against beautiful, barren landscapes and leaves the viewer to wonder about the relationship between spirituality and magic. The New Boy is best suited to older, more mature audiences.

The main messages from this movie are that the magic and power of spiritual beliefs and practices can come in many forms and in many guises; and that the power of compassion, empathy and kindness transcends time, race and culture.

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

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Self-reliance
  • Courage
  • Industriousness.

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

  • The dangers of playing with snakes.
  • The dangers of religious fanaticism.
  • The impact of removing Aboriginal children from their culture and overpowering their spiritual beliefs and practices.