Starring Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, this spiritual drama from Warwick Thornton (TIFF ’17’s Sweet Country) hauntingly evokes Australia’s fraught colonial legacy through the story of one very special child.
The New Boy
Set in the 1940s, the latest from writer-director-cinematographer Warwick Thornton (TIFF 2017’s Sweet Country) is a spiritual drama that’s equal parts magic and heartache. Starring Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and newcomer Aswan Reid, The New Boy hauntingly evokes Australia’s fraught colonial legacy through the story of one very special child.After being abducted by police, an unnamed Aboriginal boy (Reid) is delivered to a remote rural monastery where Sister Eileen (Blanchett) oversees a shelter for abandoned children. Eileen is caring and patient with those in her charge, but she is resolute in her mission to convert these young souls to Christianity. The new boy doesn’t speak English and resists adopting his keepers’ standards of civilized comportment, but he does seem responsive to Eileen’s religious instruction, embracing a beautifully carved crucifix with innate reverence. What’s more, the new boy appears to possess miraculous abilities akin to those of Eileen’s chosen saviour — abilities that might recede if Eileen fails to recognize how Christian and Indigenous beliefs can exist in harmony.
With its startling images of nature dwarfing the man-made world and its haunting score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, The New Boy conjures a singular, transporting atmosphere. In a rare return to Australian cinema, Blanchett offers a heartfelt embodiment of altruistic intentions foiled by an oppressive mandate, while the precociously talented Reid radiates a swirling mix of historical trauma and profound wonderment in his arresting, wide-eyed gaze.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes