Teen faces perilous scenarios in inspirational true tale.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.
Suggest an Update
A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the Australian film True Spirit is based on the real-life story of teenager Jessica Watson, who at 16 became the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone. She faces peril at sea, including storm scenes that could be intense for young viewers, especially one where her boat capsizes and it appears she may not survive. She also grapples with loneliness and homesickness. Her parents are accused publicly of endangering their daughter, and they experience doubt. Watson demonstrates perseverance and courage in striving for and achieving her dream, overcoming challenges (including childhood dyslexia) and the low expectations of others. Her journey proves inspirational for young people around the world. Minimal language in the film includes "damn," "bloody hell," and "bugger."
Very powerful to show Young Kids
Report this review
Report this review
What's the Story?
Ever since she was little, Jessica Watson (Teagan Croft), star of TRUE SPIRIT, has wanted to sail around the world. As a little girl (Alyla Browne), she presents her parents, Julie (Anna Paquin) and Roger (Josh Lawson), with a proposal that details plans about the training she'll need and the materials she will earn money to purchase. Her clearheadedness convinces them to at least let her work toward her goal, and she also manages to convince former sailing champion Ben (Cliff Curtis) to advise her. As the day approaches for her to set sail around the world, alone on a small craft at age 16, the adults start to have their doubts. A local media frenzy adds to the stress. But Jessica is as determined as ever.
Is It Any Good?
It would be hard not to give a stamp of approval to this uplifting, family-friendly biopic based on the inspirational real-life journey of an Australian teen, despite a few overly formulaic aspects. Sure, True Spirit could have found a more original way to convey Jessica's lifelong motivation to sail around the world than (cute) childhood flashbacks. The narrative arc of the cynic-turned-cheerleader journalist doesn't feel essential or genuine either. But these slightly cloying elements don't diminish the true story of Watson, whom Croft embodies with a combination of steadfastness and vulnerability.
Structuring the film by days at sea, skipping 20 or more days at a time, and parallel editing her time on the boat with her family's life back home, keeps the pace of the story moving at an entertaining clip. The relative calmness of Jessica's journey -- captured in an especially gorgeous scene where the starry night sky is reflected in the still, black surface of the sea around her pink-lit boat -- lulls you into thinking sailing around the world could be easy. That sense of peace makes a climactic storm scene all the more intense and bolsters the emotional finale.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Jessica's determination and perseverance in True Spirit. Have you ever been so clear and worked so hard to achieve a goal? Does her perseverance pay off? Does it have any negative consequences?
Were you surprised by the courage shown by a 16-year-old girl? Can you think of other stories of teenage girls who have accomplished courageous feats? Were you surprised her parents let her go? Did this show courage on their part too?
How do you think they filmed the scenes on the boat, particularly the storm scenes? Where could you go for more information?
- On DVD or streaming: February 3, 2023
- Cast: Teagan Croft, Anna Paquin, Cliff Curtis
- Director: Sarah Spillane
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, Ocean Creatures, Science and Nature
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 28, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Excellent, gorgeous drama with uplifting messages.
Inspiring true refugee story has sexual violence and peril.
Thoughtful, inspired look at grief soars.
Uplifting Indian drama has positive messages, some violence.
He Named Me Malala
Inspiring, deeply affecting docu explores teen icon's life.
For kids who love inspiring tales
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate