Having wowed audiences at Cannes and the recent Sydney Film Festival, acclaimed director Warwick Thornton’s new film is finally getting a wide release. The Australian period drama The New Boy debuts in Australian cinemas on July 6.
The New Boy marks the first collaboration between the Sweet Country and Samson and Delilah director and legendary actor Cate Blanchett. Set in the 1940s in a remote orphanage run by the alcoholic Sister Eileen (Blanchett), The New Boy is a kind of religious parable. Along with the maternal Sister Mum (Deborah Mailman) and laconic handyman George (Wayne Blair), Eileen cares for a mixed bag of Indigenous orphans and runaways, preparing them for menial jobs in adulthood.
Their simple but stable lives are disrupted by the arrival of the titular New Boy (Aswan Reid), a quiet, blonde-haired Indigenous kid of unknown provenance. From the get-go the new boy doesn’t fit in. But when he begins exhibiting what may be supernatural powers, including healing a snakebite and displaying what appear to be stigmata wounds, things take a turn for the strange.
Beautifully lensed in rural South Australia, with Thornton once again acting as his own director of photography, The New Boy is a hypnotic, mindful meditation on faith, colonialism, and the Australian Indigenous experience. While it eschews the brutality of Sweet Country, The New Boy frames colonisation not just as a physical or political process, but a spiritual one, with Eileen viewing the New Boy through a Catholic lens while pointedly avoiding any questions about where he came from and what his home culture is like.
Featuring a commanding, nuanced turn from Blanchett and excellent performances from the young ensemble, including Shane Brady, Tyrique Brady, Laiken Woolmington, Kailem Miller, Kyle Miller, Tyzailin Roderick, and Tyler Spencer, The New Boy is one of must-see Australian films of the year.