Nim’s Island

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Parental guidance recommended under 12 (Themes, Scary and disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Nim’s Island
  • a review of Nim’s Island completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 April 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and scary and disturbing scenes
Children over the age of 12 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: Nim’s Island
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 96 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Nim’s Island tells the story of 11 year old Nim (Abigail Breslin) who has lived on a secret island with her scientist father, Jack (Gerard Butler), since the death of her mother when she was a baby.  Nim is left alone on the island for a few days when Jack leaves on a scientific voyage out at sea to find rare algae.  Nim enjoys her time alone on the island reading her favourite Alex Rover adventure novels until all hours and hanging out with her animal friends.  However things change when a bad storm hits, leaving Jack stranded out at sea and Nim alone to fend for herself against a number of natural and some not-so-natural threats. Despite her resilient and courageous nature Nim becomes frightened at being alone and worried for her father’s safety.  When a chance email is received from her favourite adventure novelist, Alex Rover, Nim decides to ask for help, believing that Alex is the male hero described in the books. 

On the other side of the globe, Alex Rover (Jodie Foster) is the complete opposite of her alter-ego hero (also played by Gerard Butler). The real Alex struggles with agoraphobia that has kept her housebound for a number of months.  When she receives an SOS from Nim, a little girl alone and afraid, she decides to confront her fears and find the courage of her book character to help her.     

There is adventure, action and courage aplenty as Nim, her father and Alex Rover fight their fears to find their way to one another.


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 a parent; A child separated from a parent and left to deal perilous situations alone

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:

  • enactments of the Alex Rover novels include a number of Indiana Jones style scenes; a man captured by a number of attackers; a fight scene including knives; a man seen to have been killed in the fight; a man tied to a pole and thrown into a volcano
  • cartoon depiction of Nim’s mother’s death which shows her being eaten by a whale

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:

  • There are several intense storm scenes, including Nim and her animal friends being threatened by two bad storms that destroy the home that she and her father have built, Nim frightened and cowering in the middle of the treehouse with her animals, and Jack  being  knocked out of his boat by a very large wave that capsizes the boat
  • Jack’s boat is circled by a number of sharks whilst he is stranded at sea
  • Nim falls from a mountain and scrapes her knee badly and blood is seen
  • At one stage a volcano begins to erupt and steam and ash falls from it.  A number of people are at risk of being hurt by this and there is a mass exit from the island, leaving Nim alone to deal with the erupting volcano.
  • Alex almost drowns during one scene and is rescued by Nim

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 scared or 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.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above scenes and particularly the idea of an 11 year old girl left alone to face danger.

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 in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Purcell hand sanitiser
  • Coca cola
  • Apple computers
  • National Geographic
  • Progresso soup (American brand)
  • Avanti

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Women wearing brief swimwear and showing cleavage

Use of substances

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

  • There is minimal use of substances throughout this movie however there is one scene where adults are drinking cocktails on the beach

Coarse language

There is minimal use of coarse language in this movie.  Examples include:

  • bloody
  • stupid
  • damn
  • oh god

In a nutshell

Nim’s Island is an adventure film with a strong female role model based on the book of the same name by Wendy Orwell. The main messages from this movie are that:

  • courage is a choice we make
  • you can be the hero of your own life story

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

  • resilience, determination and independence
  • being an individual
  • family connection
  • love of science, books and learning

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

  • confronting one’s fears
  • living without technology