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Storm Boy

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Storm Boy Movie Poster Image
Expect hunting violence in tear-jerking ecological tale.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Take care of ecosystem, and it will take care of you. Stresses importance of preserving lands and fostering life, suggests that passively permitting destruction is no better than perpetrating it. Themes include compassion, empathy, teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Michael, age 11, has a good, loving heart: He seeks to protect, save pelicans on island where he lives. He takes it upon himself to save three hatchlings whose mother was killed by hunters. He and his father become friends with a kind indigenous man who teaches Michael importance of taking care of wildlife, introduces him to native cultural rituals. A wealthy teen girl shows how one person can make a difference by standing up for preserving the land belonging to Australia's indigenous population.

Violence

Hunters shoot and kill birds; gunshots frequently heard; bloody bird carcasses seen. One bird suffers prolonged, emotional death. Hunter verbally threatens a child's pet. Gun is temporarily pointed at child. A man in peril when his boat capsizes in storm. All main characters have experienced/are dealing with loss of loved one.

Sex
Language

Iffy language includes exclamations "Jesus" and "hell." Newspaper headline describing mining plan uses phrase "land rape." Teen talks about how she hates her father; children talk back, raise their voices to their parents in a way that is depicted as justified.

Consumerism

The modern-day family is quite wealthy.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Bottles are seen, and adults drink liquor. A teen offers "the hair of the dog" to her hungover grandfather and pours alcohol into his coffee. A shot glass is multipurposed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Storm Boy is a drama based on a children's novella by Colin Thiele that's taught in Australian schools. It's a pro-ecological tale about a boy's love for an orphaned pelican and his awakening about the importance of defending wildlife and protecting nature. Everyone in the movie is in mourning -- all of the main characters have lost parents, wives, and/or children -- and the ending is a major heart-wrencher (worse than Old Yeller, but not as harsh as The Yearling). But beautiful relationships shine through, including that of the boy, his dad, and a lonely indigenous man who passes on his tribal customs to the boy. That said, the way the boy and the indigenous man meet might be cause for a talk with your kids: The man approaches the boy in a remote area and assures him that he's friendly; the next thing you know, the boy brings the man back to his house, where (phew) the man insists on waiting outside, since the boy's father isn't home. Expect to see guns in action (hunters shoot and kill birds, and bloody bird carcasses are seen) and adults drinking. Language is minimal, sex isn't an issue, and themes include compassion, empathy, and teamwork.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written byKingy_420 April 2, 2019

So sad

This movie is such a heartwarming and tear stealing movie at the same time!

What's the story?

Based on the same-named Australian children's novella by Colin Thiele, STORM BOY revolves around a grandfather (Geoffrey Rush) who faces an important vote on whether to allow mining on the farmlands he controls. In light of his teen granddaughter's pleas to vote against the action, the man recalls his childhood experiences growing up on a remote island where he rescued baby pelicans who were orphaned by hunters.

Is it any good?

For the Australians who grew up reading Thiele's treasured book, this drama will no doubt be a captivating, special tale; for those unfamiliar, it will be more of a challenge to stay engaged. Australian children are taught Storm Boy (the book) in elementary school: The story is full of exploration and adventure, love, loss, unexpected friendship, finding your voice, appreciating other cultures, and understanding the importance of protecting nature. This adaptation brings those elements to life, but it wraps the child's story into an adult one -- and, in doing so, it's likely to lose younger audiences within the first 10 minutes. From there, the story moseys along at a pace that might bore some kids.

On the other hand, who knew pelicans could make such good friends? The antics featuring young Michael's (Finn Little) pet, Mr. Percival, are adorable, and a memorable game of hide-and-seek is downright precious. Kids almost always respond to seeing others their age playing with wild animals; it's a fantasy come true. But the cheer comes to a devastating conclusion, and that defies the direction of most of today's family movies. The boy's hard work and protective measures don't pay off, in the cruelest of ways. Writer Justin Monjo has a cinematic fix for that, explaining that the tragedy wasn't in vain and allowing the teen girl in the modern story to succeed. But even the most thick-skinned kids may be shell-shocked by the film's conclusion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages of Storm Boy. What is it saying about hunting? About conservation? 

  • What are the different ways the film shows individuals, including children, fighting for change? How did Michael get others to think about the importance of giving birds and animals a sanctuary?

  • What do you think of how grief and loss are portrayed in Storm Boy? How do Michael as a boy, Michael as an old man, Hideaway Joe, and Madeline each work through their loss? 

  • How does Michael demonstrate compassion? How does Madeline demonstrate empathy? What's the difference? Why are these important character strengths?

  • How do Michael, Hideaway Joe, and Fingerbone Bill exemplify teamwork in saving the baby pelicans' lives? Why is this a crucial life skill?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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