Broken Hill

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Broken Hill Movie Poster Image
Formulaic coming-of-age story with mild romance.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A young woman discovers that her prejudices about prisoners aren't well-founded. The film strives to show that the incarcerated have hopes, dreams, and fears, too.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tommy's commitment to his music is admirable, and so is his willingness to nurture a love of it in others, no matter who they are and what their background is.


Barely registers. Prisoners shown in handcuffs and shackles; discussion of prison life.


Nothing racy. Sweet flirtation and a tender kiss.


A character calls another “creepo.”

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this coming-of-age story about a teen who finally pursues his love for conducting and music is lukewarm at best. It has much of the necessary elements for a tearjerker -- determined lead character, tragedy, a common goal set by underdogs -- but it's so formulaic it doesn't make that much of an impression. It's pretty wholesome, though: no swearing, very little romancing, and surprisingly no edge for a movie about convicts.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old September 11, 2011

Broken Hill 101

Broken Hill is a great movie for kids 9+. There is some talk about asking girls to the dance and 3 innocent kisses, but that pretty much it.
( someone also cal... Continue reading

What's the story?

Tommy McAlpine (Luke Arnold) would rather be conducting an orchestra and making beautiful music than be on the field for Australian football or working on his father's (Timothy Hutton) sheep ranch. He hears music everywhere, but it's not where many envision his passions to reside. If he had his way, he'd be attending a conservatory, but an attempt to impress a possible connection falls flat. When he finds himself in trouble after joining his crush (Alexa Vega) on a vandalism-filled prank, he's sent to work with prisoners who have a talent for music. Does he have what it takes to make a difference and, perhaps, make real his true calling?

Is it any good?

There are some reasons to recommend BROKEN HILL; its thoughtful, though not quite in-depth, look at the interior life of prisoners, especially. At least it's attempting to show them in non-stereotypical ways, for which is deserves some kudos. Its main theme, that music can transport and soothe even the most troubled souls, is admirable, and its two leads (Arnold and Vega) add youth and verve to the whole enterprise.

Truth be told, though, it's quite clichéd. The story is fairly predictable -- you just know the girl will end up liking the awkward guy, after all, seeing as how he's so sensitive and all -- and the ending isn't as satisfying as it should be, given the journeys, musical and emotional, that Tommy and the prisoners embark on. (Why Timothy Hutton agreed to do this, we will never know.) It's a not-unpleasant way to pass the time, but memorable and original, it's not.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about following dreams. What does it take for Tommy to follow his dreams? What challenges have you encountered when trying to pursue your passions?

  • What does this movie share with other films about the power of music? Does it add anything to the genre?

  • Talk about peer pressure. What kind of influence do friends have on your decisions? What kind of advice do you seek from your friends? What decisions do you make entirely on your own?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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