Edge of the World parents guide

Edge of the World Parent Guide

This strange but true period of history is depicted with levels of historically accurate violence but also with messages that resonate today.

Overall C

Digital on Demand: Explorer and naturalist James Brooke landed in Borneo in 1839 with a goal of cataloguing the island's plants and animals. He wound up as its ruler, known to history as the White Rajah.

Release date June 4, 2021

Violence D
Sexual Content C
Profanity B
Substance Use B-

Why is Edge of the World rated Not Rated? The MPAA rated Edge of the World Not Rated

Run Time: 104 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Truth, as the saying goes, is stranger than fiction. Especially when it comes to the history of Sarawak, now part of the Asian country of Malaysia. This northern region of the island of Borneo was once ruled by an Englishman known as the White Rajah, whose dynasty governed until the Second World War.

Edge of the World opens in 1839 at the beginning of the Victorian era. Having used his inheritance to buy a ship with defensive cannons, explorer and naturalist James Brooke (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has just arrived in Borneo, where he plans to study the local flora and fauna. But Brooke’s attempts to ensure the cooperation of the local rulers, Prince Makhota (Bront Palarae) and Prince Bedruddin (Samo Rafael), draw him - and his cannons - into local conflicts with rebels and pirates. Soon, Brooke is indispensable to the safety of the islanders, and he reaps the rewards that come with his success.

Brooke is no fool, and he does not rejoice when the Sultan of Brunei crowns him Rajah. He knows that Sarawak is a dangerous place, with pirates and angry rivals poised to attack. But he cares deeply for the people (and the natural world) and dedicates himself to providing stability, administering justice, and eradicating headhunting.

Not surprisingly, a movie set in this time and place comes with a boatload of negative content. The chief issue is regular doses of extreme, bloody violence that push it well into Restricted territory. Severed heads show up frequently, people are stabbed and decapitated and their butchered corpses are left in plain sight. People are also mutilated out of revenge or as a warning to enemies. This is a movie that will not let viewers forget that war is brutal and that the thirst for power and vengeance often exacts a terrible price.

Gore aside, Edge of the World is an intriguing look at a little known historical period. The film is well produced and Jonathan Rhys Meyers delivers a believable portrayal of James Brooke. The production’s first half, as Brooke establishes himself in Sarawak is more compelling than the second, particularly when he becomes delirious with fever and struggles to cope with the perils around him.

This is a fascinating film to watch from the vantage point of 2021. As the legacy of colonialism is examined more closely and critically, Brooke stands out as a distinctive figure. Born in India under English rule, he is deeply skeptical of Britain’s imperial goals. Although he is appalled by routine decapitations, he is overall respectful of local culture and unwilling to turn Sarawak into a British colony. As he says, “If I rule as the British do, I become the man I’ve spent my life trying to escape.”

Brooke’s determination to protect his people does turn him into a White Savior figure, but given the era in which he lives, it’s certainly better than the alternative. History is full of white colonizers; it’s good to see a European who isn’t motivated by a desire for conquest. At the same time, it offers a glimpse at a how history could have unfolded had more men of Brooke’s time chosen to reject imperial dogma and respect the cultures and autonomy of the people they encountered.

Directed by Michael Haussman. Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Dominic Monaghan, Atiqah Hasiholan, Samo Rafael, Bront Palarae. Running time: 104 minutes. Theatrical release June 4, 2021. Updated

Watch the trailer for Edge of the World

Edge of the World
Rating & Content Info

Why is Edge of the World rated Not Rated? Edge of the World is rated Not Rated by the MPAA

Violence: Men are surrounded, and spears are pointed at them. Severed heads are seen hanging in a hut: a man asks how long they have to be smoked and is told until the eyes melt. A bloody corpse is seen tied to a tree. A man’s head is cut off and given as a gift. There’s mention of brutality in India, people being blown apart by cannons. Men are attacked with arrows; some are killed. Canons are fired at a wooden fort. A chicken is shown being killed; blood drips down. A man finds a corpse with tied hands floating in the river. A man’s fingers are cut off (off screen) he is seen with bloody bandages. A dead, mutilated corpse is seen in a canoe. Three people are attacked with knives while asleep: they are shown covered in blood as they try to fight back. Attackers set a house on fire. A person deliberately sets a fire to kill attackers. A bloody head is held on a pike and shown to family members. A woman is shown with a bandaged head after her ears are cut off (not shown). Corpses are seen hanging upside down in a cave. A battle scene sees people attacked with swords. A man holds the severed head of someone he has defeated.
Sexual Content: Men’s buttocks are visible in the customary dress of their tribes. A father mentions that his daughters can have sex prior to marriage. There’s mention of an illegitimate pregnancy. A woman tells a man that another man loves him. A man strokes another man’s chest. A man and woman have sex: their bare backs are visible. A man mentions eating a bull’s genitals. A man is briefly seen asleep in a bed with two sleeping women. A dying man professes his love for another man.
Profanity: There are a handful of terms of deity and minor curse words. An Englishman twice uses the “n word” to describe the people of Sarawak.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Men drink rice wine and appear slightly tipsy. People drink wine at dinner.

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Edge of the World Parents' Guide

For more information about Brooke and his dynasty, you can read the following articles:

Wikipedia: James Brooke

Wikipedia: White Rajahs

What do you think of Brooke’s rule over Sarawak? Do you think the people of Sarawak would have been better off under their original rulers or do you think received some benefits from Brooke’s administration?

James Brooke definitely fits the White Savior template. How does the White Savior trope play out in our era? Do you think it is a problem or not?

Wikipedia: White savior

Medium: Holding up the Mirror: Recognizing and Dismantling the “White Savior Complex”

Sojourners: 6 Harmful Consequences of the White Savior Comples


Home Video

Related home video titles:

The natural wonders of Borneo continue to inspire people today. Born to Be Wild is a documentary about the rescue of orphaned elephants and orangutans in the jungles of Borneo.