The New World
By Cynthia Fuchs,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Poetic telling of John Smith and Pocahontas myth.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Old world and New World encounters are the subject of this movie. European settlers corrupt the land and abuse the Native peoples already residing in the "New World."
Positive Role Models
It is hard to call out anything in this film as role model worthy because of the incredibly culturally sensitive material being explored. Needless to say, wrongs of the past do not exist in a vacuum, and this film can certainly instigate a discussion between you and your teen about America's shared colonial past.
Violence & Scariness
Battle scenes include explosions, spearings, shootings, and beatings.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing and nuzzling in primitive setting; declarations of love.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some smoking and drinking by the Europeans; Native rituals involve hallucinatory images.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film is focused on a clash of civilizations, European and Native Indian, beginning in 1607. Depicted largely in metaphorical imagery of woods, fields, rivers, and the settlement called Jamestown, the movie shows the difficulty of intercultural communication. It includes battle scenes (with guns, spears, tomahawks, explosions, and bloody bodies), as well as long, lyrical (non-narrative) passages that might be uninteresting for some younger viewers.
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Where to Watch
Based on 1 parent review
If you understand Native American culture and spirituality
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What's the Story?
Ambitious and gorgeous, Terrence Malick's THE NEW WORLD revisits the myth of the circa-1607 romance between Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher), revealing its characters' yearnings in landscapes and voiceovers. The romance occurs as Smith stays for months with the tribe -- whom the Europeans deem "the naturals" -- in an ostensible effort to help his own men survive, to win favor and learn strategies of living with the land rather than pitted against it. But even though Smith extols his hosts' communal values ("They no jealousy, no sense of possession"), he can't absorb them. Instead, he is bedeviled by his ambition, enticed by a new voyage to discover the Indies, leaving behind a lie for Pocahontas, that he's died at sea, so he never need return to her. Though she mourns for her lost love, she agrees to marry the solid, loyal, unexciting John Rolfe (Christian Bale).
Is It Any Good?
Malick's film is of two minds. On one hand, it refutes this pretty story by making Smith overtly a problem, an arrogant adventurer. On another, it offers poetic images to suggest she continues to love this white invader even after he abandons her.
Impressionistic as his films will be, Malick brings to bear on this saga a fascinated (and at times, fascinating) patience, as his camera wafts over natural woodsy scenes or dense rainfalls. Pocahontas warns John Rolfe, "There are things you don't know, things you could not guess." Ah yes, but her ripe mystery is so captivating that he can't not want her. However Rolfe or Smith or even you comprehend her, Pocahontas' tragedy is just this desire, that has so little to do with her.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the myth of John Smith and Pocahontas: given that she was probably 10 or 11 when they first met (and she saved him from death ordered by her father, a king), why might stories persist that theirs was a romance, based in mutual love and interests?
How does this version differ from the 1995 animated Disney musical, Pocahontas?
- In theaters: December 23, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: May 9, 2006
- Cast: Christian Bale, Colin Farrell, Q'Orianka Kilcher
- Director: Terrence Malick
- Inclusion Information: Middle Eastern/North African directors, Indigenous actors, Latinx actors
- Studio: New Line
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 150 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some intense battle sequences
- Last updated: October 14, 2022
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