News of the World Parent Guide
This is one of those period films that manages to both inform viewers about a historical era while also raising contemporary issues.
Parent Movie Review
Although the Civil War has ended, the process of Reconstruction continues - with limited popularity in heavily Confederate regions of rural Texas. Former Captain Jeffrey Kidd (Tom Hanks) has found work reading the news, travelling town to town with a variety of recent newspapers to inform the residents of the goings-on in the wider world. But in his travels, Kidd stumbles across a strange girl: the paperwork she carries identifies her as Johanna (Helena Zengel), an orphaned child found living with the indigenous Kiowa people. It also requests that she be returned to her only surviving family, an aunt and uncle, who live on the other side of the state. But the roads are long, and fraught with dangers…and Johanna isn’t necessarily keen on leaving.
Look, before I say anything about the movie itself, I have to confess that I am heavily biased. Like many of you, I will watch (and more than likely enjoy) almost any film that features Tom Hanks. And if you’re just here for Tom Hanks, then you can safely skip the rest of this review. He’s in almost every scene and there’s not a lot of negative content. You’ll have a good time no matter what else I say.
If you’re more interested than that, thanks for sticking around. This is one of those period films that manages to do two things – inform us about a historical era while also making us think about contemporary issues. After seeing Confederate flags carried through the U.S. Capitol in 2021, the challenges of Reconstruction seem more relevant than ever. Another 1860s issue that resonates today is race, with the movie addressing the cruelties inherent in Westward expansion, and the brutalities visited on the indigenous population by settlers; horrors which led to a cycle of escalating violence and which ended in near-genocide.
This isn’t a cheery film, but it is compelling. Kidd’s journey through Texas gives him plenty of time to explore the abovementioned themes while getting in a fair amount of trouble. Content in this film is largely centered around violence (hardly unusual for a Western), with brief profanity and some off-screen sexual content. There is also a non-explicit reference to pedophilia, which are certainly unpleasant albeit not detailed. But if you can stomach a little violence, News of the World is worth watching – although I’d suggest you find a friend or two to watch it with, since movie rental platforms are charging nearly $20 to watch it at the moment. You might as well spread out the cost.Directed by Paul Greengrass. Starring Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Marvel, and Ray McKinnon. Running time: 118 minutes. Theatrical release January 14, 2021. Updated January 14, 2021
Watch the trailer for News of the World
News of the World
Rating & Content Info
Why is News of the World rated PG-13? News of the World is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violence, disturbing images, thematic material and some language.
Violence: Blood is seen on the walls and beds of a house where people were killed. The body of an African-American man is seen hanging from a tree following an off-screen lynching. A character bites someone’s hand. A young girl is tied to a stake to keep her from running away. A variety of individuals are shot and killed. Men have a fistfight. Skinned buffalo are seen, and several horses are killed in an accident.
Sexual Content: There is a scene of implied sex between two adult characters with no on-screen activity of any kind. A number of pedophiles attempt to buy and then kidnap a young girl, and they make several crude comments, none of which are explicit.
Profanity: There is one use of extreme profanity, one use of scatological cursing, and infrequent mild profanity and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Men drink what is implied to be alcohol in one scene.
Page last updated January 14, 2021
News of the World Parents' Guide
What were the consequences of the American policy of “Manifest Destiny”? What were the effects on the indigenous populations? How were these justified? Which of those consequences endure today?
Britannica: Manifest Destiny
American History: Manifest Destiny – The Philosophy That Created a Nation
Smithsonian: Manifest Destiny and Indian Removal
Reconstruction following the American Civil War was a difficult process, and one which seemingly failed to bridge cultural and political differences in the United States. What do you think the problems were in Reconstruction-era policy that led to this failure? Or do you think Reconstruction was broadly successful? Why?
The New York Times: Why Reconstruction Matters
What happens to Johanna at the end of the film? Why do you think that is the case? What does this say about the significance of found family versus blood relations?