Blueback Parent Guide
Unfolding slowly, this movie has valuable lessons to share about life under the sea and on land.
Parent Movie Review
On Abby’s (Ariel Donoghue) eighth birthday, she makes an unexpected acquaintance. Her mother (named Dora and played by Radha Mitchell) has taken her diving in the nearby reef on Australia’s western shore and Abby meets a blue groper, a large fish who she promptly names Blueback. Gropers tend to remain in the same waters throughout their long lives, so Abby visits often to interact with her aquatic friend.
As Abby (now played by Ilsa Fogg) reaches her teens, she learns that Blueback and the other residents of the coral reef are in danger from two directions. The first is a decision to dredge the reef, allowing larger ships to enter the bay. The second is a plan to develop land around the coast. Dora is a committed activist, and Abby works with her to halt both assaults on the bay – although the two often differ on tactics. While Dora is busy chaining herself to construction equipment, Abby is meticulously documenting the reef’s biosphere and studying to prepare herself for a scientific career that will allow her to save the seas.
The dedicated student reaches her goal, and we are introduced to an adult Abby (Mia Wasikowska), who is conducting scientific surveys of bleached, dying coral reefs. When Dora has a stroke, Abby rushes home to care for her – and while there she reflects on her own life and the direction of her career.
Blueback is a completely unobjectionable film. It’s also familiar. Like every other environmental film it presents an urgent cry for conservation. In this case, the movie focuses on imperiled marine ecosystems, particularly the crisis facing coral reefs, which are dying as ocean temperatures rise. The story’s protagonists, Abby and Dora, both work passionately to save the bay on which they live, and they square off against the local bad guy, an unscrupulous developer who is as uninteresting as he is obnoxious. By focusing on one villain, the movie tightens the plot, but it misses the point. Marine life isn’t in peril because one Australian businessman is getting greedy: aquatic animals are dying because they are swallowing microplastics and because they are being overfished and because the global climate crisis is making their underwater homes too hot to handle.
Fortunately, the movie does offer audiences a great example of what can be done to mitigate the harms to our world’s oceans. Dora is dedicated to having the bay declared a marine reserve, and her battle for that cause is a critical part of the story. This is a film that not only celebrates the wonders of the undersea world, it also delivers strong messages about integrity, courage, perseverance, dedication, and education. These themes come with minimal negative content and gorgeous aquatic vistas. (At my showing, the colors were somewhat desaturated, but I suspect that’s due to the age of the theater and it’s likely that a newer theater will have brighter colors on the screen. If not, that’s a terrible shame.)
Blueback is a slow, quiet film but older kids with the patience to let a story unfold will learn a lot from this story and from Abby. Viewers of any age will marvel at the maritime world and the beauty of Australia’s ecosystem, on and off shore. And we can all remember that friends can be found in the most unexpected places.
Directed by Robert Connolly. Starring Radha Mitchell, Mia Wasikowska, Eric Bana. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release March 10, 2023. Updated March 10, 2023
Watch the trailer for Blueback
Rating & Content Info
Why is Blueback rated PG? Blueback is rated PG by the MPAA for some thematic elements, peril and brief mild language,
Violence: Divers fire spearguns at fish on a few occasions. A diver fires a speargun at a girl but misses. A girl hits and punches a fish to save it from divers. A large number of dead sea creatures are seen on a boat deck. A man drowns off screen and there is a conversation about retrieving his body. There’s mention of the long ago drowning death of another person. A funeral is held for a main character but her death is not shown.
Sexual Content: A teen girl and boy kiss.
Profanity: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There might be some social drinking among adults but it wasn’t clear.
Page last updated March 10, 2023
Blueback Parents' Guide
What is the driving force behind Abby’s life? What does she do to achieve her goals? What price does she pay for it?
What are the biggest challenges facing marine life in our world? How does global climate change affect undersea life? How are coral reefs suffering in a changing climate? What can be done to save the reefs? What role do marine reserves play in protecting biodiversity? Are there any marine reserves near you?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This movie is adapted from the novel Blueback by Tim Winton.
If you want to get kids interested in coral reefs, you can introduce them to Coral Reefs, written by Kristin Rattini as part of the National Geographic Kids Readers series. Older readers will appreciate Ocean: A Visual Encyclopedia by the Smithsonian.
Related home video titles:
For a kid-friendly look at the life in a coral reef, you can try the Disney+ documentary Dolphin Reef. The French documentary Oceans provides stunning underwater footage of the teeming life under the sea. Netflix streams a more detailed, scientific look at the problem in Chasing Coral. Also on Netflix is David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, in which the broadcaster discusses the challenges of dwindling biodiversity on land and sea.