Young and prodigious T. S. Spivet, The

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Not recommended under 14, Parental guidance recommended 14-15 (Violence; Disturbing themes and scenes; Coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Young and prodigious T. S. Spivet, The
  • a review of Young and prodigious T. S. Spivet, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 6 November 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not recommended due to violence, disturbing themes and scenes, and coarse language
Children 14-15 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing themes and scenes
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. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Young and prodigious T. S. Spivet, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Coarse language and mature themes
Length: 105 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett) is a ten-year-old child prodigy with a passion for cartography, scientific observation and inventing machines. T.S. lives on a range in Montana with his entomologist mother Dr. Clair (Helena Bonham Carter), his father (Callum  Keith Rennie), who dreams of being a cowboy and his teenage sister Gracie (Niamh Wilson), who wants to become Miss America.

We also hear of T.S’s twin brother Layton (Jakob Davies), who died recently in a shooting accident involving T.S. While the entire family is grieving, nobody talks about the accident, but T.S. is very distressed. He blames himself for the accident and has imagined visits from his dead brother.

One day after attending a lecture on perpetual motion, T.S. decides to invent a perpetual motion machine and submits his blueprints to the Smithsonian museum. Sometime later, he receives a call from G.H Jibsen (Judy Davis) from the museum who, believing T.S. to be an adult, informs him that he is the winner of a prestigious award for his machine. Miss Jibsen invites T.S to Washington to accept the award and give a speech.

 Without telling his family, T.S. packs a suitcase and sets off on an eventful journey to Washington D.C.  


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 family member and resulting guilt and grief; family relationships; child prodigies

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.

The film contains scenes related to the accidental gun death of a young child, action and peril involving young children, and scenes depicting the injury of animals including some blood and gore. Examples include:

  • A young boy fires a rifle at a cat with a tin can tied to its tail and the cat runs away with the tin can dragging behind it.  
  • In a flashback scene we see the image of a barn hear the sound of a gunshot and see a bright flash emanating from the barn. We hear a monologue of how a young boy died. 
  • A married couple have a heated argument, shouting at each other.
  • A truck driver tells T.S. that he joined the army to ‘meet interesting people and kill them’.     
  • A woman slaps another woman hard across the face, and a man punches a second man in the face knocking him to the ground. 

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:

  • Several scenes contain images of large dead insects being examined by an entomologist. There are several stuffed animals in life-like poses including a mountain lion, a coyote and an eagle.
  • T.S. is confronted by a rattle snake. CGI imaging is used to make the snake appear unrealistically large and threatening (from the boy’s perspective) as it rears up.
  • One scene contains imagined images of a Halloween pumpkin “Jack O Lantern” under a young boy’s bed. The pumpkin has scary looking cut-out eyes and a mouth of jagged teeth when the boy gets out of bed and puts his feet on the ground the pumpkin becomes animated its mouth making biting movements.
  • We see a dream-like image of the top of a young boy’s head with smoke pouring from his hair as if about to burst into flames

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:

  • Ten year old T. S. is disturbed by the accidental shooting of his twin brother. Throughout the film he talks about his involvement and his belief that he was responsible for his brother’s death. In an extended emotionally intense scene he tells an adult audience about the incident and the fact that his family won’t talk about it. We see flashback images of him sitting on a bathroom floor while being held by his older sister and his mother crying. Throughout the film T.S. has imaginary conversations with his dead brother.  
  • The film contains several perilous scenes involving T.S. including him jumping on to an inclined conveyer belt, riding it to the top and the jumping from the conveyer on to a moving freight train. In another scene he is chased by a security guard and jumps across a gap in a bridge and almost falls. He is injured from the impact, grimacing in pain and clutching his side. Later we see images of his badly bruised ribs and hear that he has several broken ribs.   
  • T.S. feeds his pet dog unknown herbs and then forces his dog to vomit. When his mother appears he kneels down and pretends to vomit and we see a small puddle of vomit on the ground. In a later scene we see him vomit into a sink. 
  • A man on a ranch brands a young calf. He pins the calf to the ground and then presses a hot branding iron into the calf’s rump; we hear a loud hissing sound and see smoke bellowing from the branding iron.     
  • A goat is entangled in barbed wire and is covered in blood.

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 some of the above-mentioned scenes

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.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Product placement

US fast food brands

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A woman makes reference to the objectification of women via beauty pageants.
  • A young boy says “If you make a baby it means you love each other”   
  • After being teased at school, a young boy asks his mother if she has AIDS.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

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

  • A couple of scenes depict a man sitting in a lounge chair sipping whisky from a glass. T.S. says his father takes a sip of whisky from his glass every forty-five seconds.
  • A woman drinks champagne from a glass and is later seen slurring her words and acting in an abusive manner.      


Coarse language

The film contains coarse language and name calling. Examples include: 

  • Full of crap, rats arse, piss in a can, son of a bitch, you little shit, Jesus Christ, fuck
  • Insults such as total dork, nut job, spas’, filthy little liar, you’re a mother- fucker  

In a nutshell

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet is an adventure drama suited to older adolescent and adult audiences. It contains violence, disturbing themes and scenes, and coarse language that make it unsuitable for children and tweens, and parental guidance is strongly recommended for younger teens. The film is thought-provoking and at times emotionally intense, although with a quirky whimsical feel. While the film on the surface is about a young boy’s lone journey across the US it is also a story about facing emotional demons and a child’s desire for his parents’ love and respect

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Parental love and respect is crucial to a child’s health happiness and wellbeing
  • Self-blame is destructive and debilitating.