Road Rash Reviews

The New Boy Cinema Review***--

Cert 12A | 96 mins | 2024

3 star moving and thought-provoking drama.

The New Boy is a 2024 Australian historical fantasy film written and directed by Warwick Thornton. Filmed on location in South Australia, the magnificent scenery is showcased to excellent effect.

It is showing exclusively in cinemas in the UK and Ireland from 15th March 2024, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

“Dear brother, I am writing to tell you of a young native boy you will receive into your charge in days. The child was found aimlessly wandering the edge of the great sandy desert.”

It’s 1940’s Australia and a young aboriginal boy (Aswan Reid) is found attacking a horse rider and taken to a remote church school and orphanage to be civilized and brought into the Christian fold. The facility is supposedly run by a monk, however everyone there is keeping a secret, he actually died a year ago and the orphanage is now being run by a nun, Sister Eileen (Cate Blanchett – Don’t Look Up, Euphoria), who forges letters from him to convince the authorities and keep everything running.

With the help of her two assistants Sister Mum (Deborah MailmanThe Sapphires, Combat Wombat) and George (Wayne Blair – Seriously Red, June Again), both of whom are aboriginals who have been assimilated into the Christian faith, she cares for the boys and tries to instill her values into them.

The New Boy imprints on Sister Eileen, following her everywhere, but at first is uninterested in her ideals, including clothes, shoes and table manners. This leads to a rocky start with the other boys but they gradually become used to each other. He seems to have an amazing gift, he can create a spark of life with his hands that has the power to heal. With the arrival at the orphanage of a crucifix, the boy becomes fascinated with Jesus and his empathy for the idol begins to make everyone nervous. This leaves sister Eileen with a difficult decision to make, whether to accept the boy’s powers or try to make him conform.

“I baptized Johnny. I’m not sure if it worked. I know it’s a priest thing and not a nun thing,”

The New Boy is an interesting film and a good concept. The backdrops are nothing short of breathtaking, used to full effect thanks to some excellent cinematography. The atmosphere is enhanced further by a score composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The acting performances are excellent, especially newcomer Aswan Reid and Cate Blanchett as the magnificently sweary nun.

Based upon the experiences of a young Thornton in an orphanage, there is true heart to this film and it’s not hard to imagine how terrifying all the pomp of Christian religion would seem to a young boy who believes in the land and the sky. While there are some pacing issues, this is a compelling tale of a clash between cultures and traditions, which serves to demonstrate that there really is no way to reconcile the two. The issues of forcing one’s beliefs onto other is an age old debate and one that watching this film will probably start up again.

Although it loses its coherence somewhat in the second half, this is a richly portrayed and touching film, dealing carefully with indigenous issues and is well worth a watch.

“You know, when I said Dom Peter wasn’t here, I meant he’s not all here…Wait, I’ll see if I can rouse him.”

The New Boy is exclusively in cinemas in the UK and Ireland from 15 March 2024

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DirectorWarwick Thornton
GenreDrama, fantasy
StarringCate Blanchett, Aswan Reid, Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair
Category: Cinema, film, Review