A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Based around the real events of a single person mass shooting and one of the Australia's worst national tragedies there are no positive messages to be taken from the film. The film ends with some statistics about gun ownership in Australia having increased since 1996, the year the tragedy took place.
Positive Role Models
The central character is deliberately unnamed and is instead only refererred to by the derogatory nickname Nitram. He is deeply troubled, finding it difficult to make friends and fit in with society. He is bullied and ostracized but this is largely from his own doing. He shows signs of dangerous behavior throughout, before it culminates in a horrific atrocity. His parents try to help him, but his behavior is out of their control. Helen is a wealthy but lonely woman. She and Nitram strike up a friendship, which, for a while appears to make them both happier. But this is short-lived.
Central to the film is a troubled young man with emotional and psychological issues that escalate to him committing a horrific mass shooting. His mental health and concerns about his behavior are discussed. Other characters also suffer with depression with one character taking their own life. There is good gender balance in the supporting cast, but no real diversity in terms of race or ethnicity.
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Violence & Scariness
The movie is about one of the worst single person mass shootings in Australian history. Although guns feature heavily and are seen being shot at objects and windows, no person is actually seen being shot. Gunshots are heard, however, and it's revealed the mass shooting killed a total of 35 people and injured a further 23. A character regularly displays erratic and dangerous behavior. On more than one occasion they grab the steering wheel while someone is driving. In one instance, this results in a fatal car accident involving two people. The car flips over multiple times while trying to avoid an oncoming vehicle. Blood is seen dripping from someone's head and they are later revealed to have died. The passenger is seen lying in a hospital bed in a neck brace with cuts and bruises. A character suffering from depression is hit multiple times by someone who is trying to get them up and out of the house. The body of someone who has died by suicide is seen being pulled out of some water. Numerous examples of bullying behavior. A character is threatened physically. Property damage. A character is seen playing with fireworks and actual news footage shows a young kid discussing being burned as a result. Other news footage makes mention of two separate real-life mass shootings.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief moments of kissing. Two characters discuss the "hotness" of someone. A parent asks someone if they are sleeping with their child. Male characters are shirtless while dancing, surfing, and in the shower. A character is seen sitting down naked from behind. The same character is seen in just their underpants on numerous occasions.
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Language used includes variants of "f--k" and "bloody." A character is routinely bullied and called "stupid" and "retard." The terms "oddball," "misfit," and "loser" are heard on a news report.
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Products & Purchases
A wealthy character lives in a big house, but it is rundown and in need of repair. They speak of their wealth but appear unmoved by it. They do, however, spend frivolously, buying cars and clothes. They leave an enormous amount of money to someone. Bags of money are seen on multiple occasions with guns, first-class air tickets, and clothes all being paid for with cash. Reference to a specific car manufacturer. A character is outbid for a property.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Character is on antidepressants. Another character is seen lying on the sofa surrounded by empty beer bottles. One character is seen smoking cigarettes throughout. Two characters smoke marijuana through a bong in a car.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Nitram is a gripping yet deeply upsetting Australian drama based on the real events of one of the country's worst mass shootings that took place in 1996. Guns of course feature heavily, but the actual shootings happen off-camera. This does nothing to dilute the horrors of the events, though. The filmmakers consciously made the decision not to use the real name of the perpetrator, instead referring to him as Nitram. Played by Caleb Landry Jones, Nitram is shown to be a deeply troubled young man who is unable to fit in with society. His erratic and dangerous behavior include causing a fatal car accident and he develops a fascination with guns. Eventually this leads to the troubling finale. Due to subject matter there are no positive messages, with facts and figures about Australia's gun ownership at the end of the film, making for depressing reading. Mental illness plays an integral part in the film, not just Nitram's, but other characters too. One character takes their own life after suffering with depression. Their body is seen being pulled out of some water. Variants of "f--k" are heard and Nitram is put down with words such as "retard." His mother (Judy Davis) is often seen smoking and in one scene, Nitram smokes marijuana from a bong with another character. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Even if you're familiar with the tragic events that this Australian drama-thriller is based on, it won't take away any of the film's gut-wrenching and devastating impact. Nitram takes its title from the name given to its central character, the filmmakers taking the decision not to use the real name of the perpatror responsible for one of the bleakest events in Australia's history that took place in April 1996. Set on the island of Tasmania, the film examines what led a loner and deeply troubled young man to commit a mass shooting that killed 35 people and injured a further 23. This is no sympathetic retelling and nor should it be. Displaying antisocial tendencies from the start, such as playing with fireworks, his behavior becomes progressively more dangerous to acts like pulling the steering wheel while someone is driving. All of which add to a crescendo to the film's devastating finale.
A film of this magnitude needed broad shoulders to bear its weight. Thankfully Caleb Landry Jones proves to be more than up to the task. Whether its icy calmness or full on screaming panic attacks, Landry Jones expertly judges when to dial it up or down. But wherever the dial is positioned, his performance helps us at least gain some understanding of how a troubled outsider became a mass murderer. Although it's Landry Jones' movie, he is ably supported by the excellent Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia, who play his caring but helpless parents. While Essie Davis once again shows her pedigree as the wealthy recluse, Helen, whose fate escalates Nitram's descent toward evil. A powerful watch that might prove too much for some, this a deeply troubling -- but sensitively told -- retelling of a very dark moment in Australia's not too distant past.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.