The New Boy

The New Boy
The New Boy
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Regardless of where your faith lies, religion can be a thing of beauty and terror, as seen in Christianity, particularly in The New Boy. In the one hand, there is something moving about how faith can lead us to kindness, community and understanding what happens around us. On the other hand obviously across history, and currently even today religion has been used as weapon with faith exploited as a justification for violence physical or through dangerous rhetoric.

The New Boy makes its North American premiere at TIFF. With this film Warwick Thornton focuses on Australia’s own colonization story. During the 1940s we see police take an Aboriginal boy called “the New Boy” (Aswan Reid) to a secluded monks’ home for foster children. Sister Eileen (Cate Blanchett) runs it and she is also a co-producer through her company Dirty Films. This homeless shelter is driven by love as well as devotion guided by Eileen who wants all the boys introduced into Christianity like George did.

However The New Boy poses an interesting case for Sister Eileen; her assistant sister Mum (Deborah Mailman); and the groundskeeper George (Wayne Blair). It looks like he might have wanted to stay based on his interest in what happened at the monastery — especially when he saw their church’s ornate crucifix — but he ultimately refuses to embrace what they are teaching him. Sister eillen gets worried when new boy demonstrates magical powers that she sees as proving everything she believes in regarding her Christian faith.

The New Boy is an incredibly beautiful film visually that was filmed by Thornton himself who also wrote directed it not forgetting doubling up cinematographer too which made him perform triple duties here. There are long wide shots most of the time which let us experience Australian landscapes from afar off. Sound in this film including Will Sheridan and Liam Egan doesn’t get any better; it ranges from rustling leaves in crop fields to audible crunching of gravel and the flashing of a New Boys’ magic which is more like a sparkling firefly.

In Church and monasteries, Amy Baker’s production design brings them to life in a mix of both reverence and horror. Depiction of light and shadows by Thornton here highly borrows from some previous religious art works such as the Pietà. This therefore brews up the silent conflict between sister Eileen and the new boy; when outside in nature, it’s through his eyes that we bask in its wonder, but indoors where sister Eileen runs things, we oscillate between her perspective as well as his while through hers we see her .and she sees herself: this is grueling work of art for God’s sake.

In many movies that have religious themes, the protagonist is tossed into a personal crisis of faith or taken on some religious rites. Even though it does not seem to be so at first glance, The New Boy is directed towards the outside and has an almost inconspicuous but nonetheless powerful clash of wills between Sister Eileen’s Christianity and New Boy’s Indigenous beliefs. Moreover, there is a certain sorrowfulness that embodies Thornton’s film as it rests at the crossroads of these two systems’ faith.

One scene where the New Boy cures a child who was severely injured speaks volumes about his inner kindness and community instincts (which Sister Eileen coincidentally tries to instill in boys). In another scene, the New Boy heals one of the children after he had been seriously wounded, doing so without thinking twice about it—his benevolence and communalistic values being just some random examples.

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