The New Boy
In the middle of the night, a feral child, who has been picked up in the Australian desert, is dropped off at a monasterial orphanage. Run by Sister Aileen (Cate Blanchett), Sister Mum (Deborah Mailman) and George (Wayne Blair), the institution specialises in educating young boys in matters of Christian faith until they are ready to be baptised with an Anglo-Saxon name and sent forth to work. But the indigenous new boy struggles to understand the ways of their religion and the attempts at conversion threaten to rob him of his unique spark.
Warwick Thornton’s latest feat delves deep into the heart of Australian history, presenting a sharp dissection of the role of proselytism on the country’s First People. The film navigates the complex dynamics between traditional spiritual beliefs and the encroachment of Western religious practices with a deft touch. It raises profound questions about the nature of religion itself, the entangled cultural identity caught between ancestral roots and external influences. In their unquestioning faith to the Bible, the characters fail to see that the new boy possesses many of the qualities they worship in their Lord and Saviour, yet condemn in him.
This Un Certain Regard entry stuns with eclectic visual language that accentuates both Christian symbolism as well as the sanctity of nature and the cultural landscape that shapes much of Aboriginal spirituality. Through the lense’s eye, the audience begins to rediscover that there is wonder in everything. In their unostentatious use, the special effects have all the more impact: is Jesus really moving on the cross, or is this our imagination?
The feature is comprised of salt-of-the-earth performances from each of the cast, but the young actors, especially lead Aswan Reid, have to be particularly noted in their truthful engagement.
The New Boy is a thought-provoking and visually stunning piece that explores the intersection of identity, religion, and culture, and urges us all to be critical of those demanding conformity.
The New Boy does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.