The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommendPopular with kids
Superb true tale of remarkable teen; some violence.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 113 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Focuses on the universality of the human struggle. Introduces American audiences to compelling worldwide issues: famine, governmental corruption, and the fight for survival. Illuminates African culture, traditions, and uniqueness. Values promoted: family unity, education, taking risks, and perseverance. Themes also include courage, curiosity, and integrity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Young teen is determined to literally change the world in which he lives. He exemplifies resourcefulness, courage, curiosity, compassion, and a willingness to risk much to achieve his goals. Parental figures are nurturing, responsible, insightful, and highly ethical. So-called "democratic" African country is revealed to be corrupt and insensitive to the needs of its people.


A village chief is badly beaten and bloodied by government "officials." Rifles firing into the air are used to disperse an angry crowd. A man drops to the ground and is dead. Two women in their home are threatened by thieves who steal from them. A father loses his temper and rages at his son; a mother slaps her daughter.


A few curse words: "damn," "bulls--t," "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is based on the true story of William Kamkwamba (Maxwell Simba), a 13-year-old boy living in a small village in Malawi, Africa, who created a device that would restore the land and save his people after flooding ruined their grain fields. Expect sad moments, including some significant deaths. There are also a few violent sequences: Government officials beat a village chieftain, and thieves invade a home, threatening two women. A sprinkling of curse words are heard, including "damn," "hell," "bulls--t."  The movie's source material is Kamkwamba's same-named book. Both English and Chewa (subtitled) are spoken in the film, which has clear, strong themes of perseverance, courage, curiosity, and integrity.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byasriddle April 16, 2021


This movie portrays the can-do attitude our world needs more of. I love the focus on problem-solving and a growth mindset.
Parent Written byJanice K. August 28, 2020
Teen, 13 years old Written bySlothguy_pluto March 28, 2021


It is very educational but younger kids may not be as interested as they don’t really understand what goes on. I watched it with my younger brother who wasn’t b... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bymovielover3829 December 19, 2020

Kind of awkward to watch with strict parents...

The story line is amazing and should not keep you from watching it BUT please be warned that there is passive references to slightly inappropriate things. The s... Continue reading

What's the story?

A neglectful national government and some villagers' bad decision-making contribute to the widespread starvation descending upon William Kamkwamba's (Maxwell Simba) village after devastating flooding in THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND. William's parents, Tyrell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Agnes (Aissa Maiga), determined to fund their children's education, simply cannot come up with the money for their son's school in this time of hardship. But William is a gifted student, intrigued by electronics and making things work. Of special interest to him are wind turbines, which his inventive mind believes might be able to provide enough electricity to water the now-barren land. As long shots go, a 13-year-old boy with almost no resources defies all odds. But William, with a bit of deception and a little help, gets access to an old American textbook that just may provide the technology he needs. When William asks his dad to make an unusual sacrifice for the project, the boy's relentless prodding strains their usually-solid relationship. The family's foundation is sorely tested, and hope is in short supply.

Is it any good?

In addition to William's inspiring story, this film presents an unforgettable portrait of village life in Africa, advancing awareness of the universality of family relationships and human struggles. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Chiwetel Ejiofor's first writing-directing effort, could not be more impressive. The entire production -- photography, production design, editing, story structure, music -- is stellar. Each performance he elicits is nuanced and alive with the spirit of the story being told. And, while it's likely that Ejiofor has taken some license with the events, the overall effect is enlightening, relatable, and very gratifying. Highly recommended for families to share. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how movies set in other countries and/or time periods like The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind have special value for young viewers. Were you familiar with Malawi before you saw this film? How did The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind change any earlier attitudes or knowledge you had about the country or the continent of Africa? What surprised you?

  • How did William's story illustrate such character strengths as perseverance, curiosity, integrity, and gratitude?

  • When a movie is "based upon" a book or other source material, how much do you think is authentic? Are you aware that some story elements are altered or added to help provide conflict? Screenwriters also need to create the dialogue, since there's most likely no record (other than in court proceedings) of what was actually said. Did seeing The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind motivate you to read William's book?

  • Find Malawi on a world map. Where would you go to find out how the country has fared since William mounted the turbine? Use your research tools to find out what happened to William Kamkwamba.

Movie details

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