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The New Boy

The New Boy is produced (and stars) the wonderful Cate Blanchett, it also stars Aswan Reid, Deborah Mailman (The Sapphires) and Wayne Blair (Redfern Now) and is written and directed by Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah).

The story is reported to be inspired by Thornton’s own upbringing as an Aboriginal child attending a Christian boarding school, and whilst that might be compelling and emotional enough for him, the script needed a little more conflict and drive for The New Boy to be impactful and memorable.


Set in the 1940’s Australia, a young boy appears to have powers, (the ability to heal wounds and create small balls of light from his hands) and encounters Jesus at a remote monastery in Australia. The boy’s Indigenous spiritual life does not gel with the mission’s Christianity and his mysterious power becomes a threat. One Sister Eileen is faced with a choice between the traditions of her faith and the truth embodied in the boy, in this story of spiritual struggle and the cost of survival.


The New Boy opens strong and continues with a pace that will captivate you and keep you engaged, but you might be left wondering, where was it all going?

The cinematography is gorgeous, accompanied by beautiful orchestral music and Blanchett’s smooth and seductive voice-over; both guiding the audience and leading the narrative gently along. At times I felt like I was watching a documentary; the shots are so natural and believable.

The New Boy

Blanchett gives a mesmerising performance as an unconventional, less traditional nun. However, the film’s strongest character is portrayed by newcomer Aswan Reid; one to keep your eyes on as their career is sure to soar. Even though the boy barely speaks, (except for Amen - read into this as you will) his facial expressions are enough to hold each scene.

Now whilst the acting and cinematography shine, the storyline does lack and left me feeling underwhelmed. I wanted more depth and explanation, more conflict and peril, something to sink my teeth into. Whilst there is nothing wrong with arty, enigmatic films such as this, they have to be careful that the provocation and abstruseness don’t begin to feel like the point of the film. As there is no clear reason in its ending, The New Boy borderlines this for me.

The heavy religious imagery never amounts to anything. I suppose the shots might be left for the audience to interpret and determine what they mean to them. For example snakes in Christian tradition have been associated with lies, evil and temptation, and here the boy brings them to the Jesus statue, this can symbolise the way in which indigenous people are viewed by many Australians.

The New Boy

For me, this is a nod that we’re all God’s children regardless of how, when and to who or what we pray. The film is about making room - making room for everyone regardless of their spiritual beliefs. However, there is a touching scene where the boy's power of producing light is stunted once he'd been baptised. This opens the interpretation that religion controls and kills innocence and individuality. It could also be representing how the Western world has killed indigenous peoples.

There is no right way to interpret this film, and maybe that is what makes it so wonderful. The New Boy will open your mind and your heart, as you’re taken on a spiritual journey of an orphan and a nun navigating their beliefs.


Rating The New Boy



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