The New Boy

Australia | 2023 | 116 min. | Warwick Thornton (Kaytej)

Cate Blanchett co-stars as Sister Eileen in the latest from director Warwick Thornton (Sweet Country, SIFF 2018), about a young Aboriginal orphan sent to a monastery deep in the Outback, only to demonstrate potentially supernatural powers.

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Warwick Thornton (Sweet Country, SIFF 2018) returns to the Fest with a story of faith, magic realism, and the astonishing Cate Blanchett in full wimple as a nun. Set in Australia amid World War II, the death of an elderly monk has left Sister Eileen as overseer of a monastery and protector of the indigenous children in its care. The arrival of a mysterious nomadic New Boy (Aswan Reid), unfamiliar with Western norms, quickly unsettles the orderly routines and leaves residents befuddled by his prodigious perception and seemingly ancient energy. Another newcomer—in the form of a life-sized carving of the crucifixion—sparks uncanny encounters as the boy encounters Jesus’s image for the first time. Co-produced by Blanchett and staged outside Adelaide, the film leverages a rich network of Australian talent. In the title role, Aswan Reid is a luminous discovery beneath a mop of blond curls. He debuts alongside a largely Aboriginal cast, including Wayne Blair and Deborah Mailman as monastery staff and a band of precocious area newcomers as the monastery’s other wards. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis infuse Thornton’s vast poetic cinematography with a meditative yet defiant score, echoing the film's themes of open-mindedness and resistance to dogma. Inspired from his own experiences at a missionary boarding school and developed over decades, the nuanced exploration of the intersections and tensions between Aboriginal spirituality and Christian doctrine is one that Thornton is uniquely poised to tell.

—Josh Bis

  • Director: Warwick Thornton (Kaytej)
  • Principal Cast: Cate Blanchett, Aswan Reid, Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair
  • Country: Australia
  • Year: 2023
  • Running Time: 116 min.
  • Producer: Kath Shelper, Andrew Upton, Cate Blanchett, Lorenzo De Maio, Georgie Pym
  • Screenplay: Warwick Thornton
  • Cinematographers: Warwick Thornton
  • Editors: Nick Meyers
  • Music: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis
  • Filmography: Sweet Country (2017), Samson & Delilah (2009)
  • Language: English
  • International Sales: Goodfellas