Sapphires, The

image for Sapphires, The

Short takes

Not recommended under 11, PG to 13 (Violence; themes and sexual references)

classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Sapphires, The
  • a review of Sapphires, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 13 September 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 11 Not recommended due to violence, themes and sexual references.
Children 11-12 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, themes and sexual references.
Children 13 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: Sapphires, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence, themes, coarse language and sexual references
Length: 99 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in 1968, The Sapphires is based on the true story of four Indigenous Australian singers. Sisters, Cynthia, Gail and Julie (Miranda Tapsell, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy) leave their family in the country after being discovered by Dave Lovelace (Chris O’Dowd). The girls, together with Dave, head for Melbourne and are joined by their cousin, Kay (Shari Sebbens) to audition for a job to entertain the American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. Before long, ‘The Sapphires’ arrive in Saigon and are confronted by the contrast between the vibrant and buzzing city and the surrounding horrors of war.

The girls’ talent shines and they move from performing in bars to travelling on the road to perform for the soldiers in various army bases. As they travel through the Vietnamese country side, within combat zones, the girls and Dave all have their own learning to do about life, love and identity.


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.

War and death; racism and discrimination; alcohol dependence

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:

  • Images of war are shown with bombings and gunfire. Bodies of dead soldiers and civilians are shown, as is the damage to buildings, houses and the countryside.
  • Injured soldiers are shown in hospital beds. Some soldiers have amputations, eye patches and significant injuries.
  • Gail and Kay are involved in a physical fight where they both hit each other across the face. Both are shown with an abrasion on their lips.
  • Dave and the girls travel through Vietnam without a military escort and are stopped by local militias who aim guns at them.
  • Key events in the years from 1958 to 1968 are shown. These include snippets of JFK’s assassination, Lionel Rose and Mohammed Ali in boxing matches and images of war.
  • Images are shown on TV of Martin Luther King’s assassination and the resulting rioting.
  • While sitting in helicopters, the girls see the body bags of dead soldiers.

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 and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged under five, including the following:

  • A fish is caught and its stomach is cut open with a knife.
  • In a flashback scene, government officials arrive at the girls’ home – the family frantically orders the children to run and hide. Images of distraught family members are shown after one child is taken away as part of the stolen generation.

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 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 may also be disturbed by scenes of a child being taken away and the distress of the family

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

None of oncern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A woman is called ‘sweetcheeks’
  • Dave tells Gail that the girls’ dresses need to show more ‘cleavage’
  • Cynthia often talks about the ‘sexy soldiers’ and infers that she wants to sleep with them.
  • Julie has a child, although still a teenager

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Dave is caught sleeping in his car in his underwear. He then walks from the car to the pub without pants on.
  • Cynthia lies on a man kissing him passionately. When he gets up, he does up his zipper.
  • Girls dance in bikinis in a bar in Saigon
  • Dave and Gail kiss passionately

Use of substances

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

  • Alcohol is shown frequently in pubs, bars, home parties and in the army camps. The girls are shown drinking from glasses and at times, swigging from a bottle. Dave is often shown intoxicated and then the following day, hung over. As a result of a heavy night of drinking, he agrees to travel with the girls through Vietnam without military escort, despite this being against the wishes of the girls and their family.
  • Although not shown, drugs and getting “stoned” are mentioned in Saigon and in the army camps.
  • Many characters are shown smoking

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Drongo
  • Gob shites
  • Flabby arse
  • Bulshit
  • sack of dick
  • “Abo’s”
  • piss off
  • moron
  • black dog (referring to a person)

In a nutshell

The Sapphires is based on the real life story of four courageous Indigenous Australian women who, in an era of significant racial discrimination, used their talent overseas to entertain American soldiers. It is entertaining and the story has many discussion raising aspects for older children. However, there are themes and disturbing scenes which make it unsuitable for children under 11.

 The main messages from this movie focus around the issue of identity. All of the girls come to an understanding of their role within their group. Gail understands her role as ‘mumma bear’ looking out for her younger siblings and cousin and how this is connected to the guilt she carries from her childhood where she was unable to protect Kay from the government officials. Kay has lived in both the indigenous and ‘white’ worlds and has to decide where her heart belongs. Dave also finds himself along the journey. He feels that he has failed in his life as a musician and a husband and has given in to drinking and wasting his life away. Gail forces him to confront these ‘failures’ and he realises that there are more important things to work for.

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

  • strength
  • courage
  • determination
  • the importance of family and cultural traditions

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

  • Discrimination – as faced by the sisters and by black soldiers in Vietnam
  • Alcoholism – Dave’s excessive drinking put the girls in a dangerous situation when he agreed to travel without an escort.
  • How the impact of the Stolen Generation is still felt generations after it occurred.