Broken Hill Movie Poster Image

Broken Hill



Formulaic coming-of-age story with mild romance.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.”

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

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.

Families can talk 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

DVD/Streaming release date:May 17, 2011
Cast:Alexa Vega, Luke Arnold, Timothy Hutton
Director:Dagen Merrill
Studio:Entertainment One
Topics:Music and sing-along
Run time:102 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements and some language

This review of Broken Hill was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • A music teacher inspires his students.
  • Memorable, sometimes gritty drama about music, friendship.
  • Pleasant, emotional, fable-like family drama.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

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 calls a boy a "creepo" but that's as harsh as it gets ) Offers positive messages and great role models. Thanks for reading! :)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex