True Spirit parents guide

True Spirit Parent Guide

It's a conventionally inspiring film, but it's got heart which makes it watchable.

Overall B+

Netflix: The true story of an Australian teen who set out to be the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Release date February 3, 2023

Violence A
Sexual Content A
Profanity B
Substance Use A-

Why is True Spirit rated TV-PG? The MPAA rated True Spirit TV-PG for fear.

Run Time: 109 minutes

Parent Movie Review

It’s 2009 and 16-year-old Jessica Watson (Teagan Croft) sets out to fulfill her dream of becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo. Supported by her coach, Ben (Cliff Curtis), and her family, Jessica faces the very real dangers of the ocean, but also internal fears she never knew she had.

Movies based on true events can be tricky to judge. It’s easy to get caught up in the weeds of accuracy, but it’s also hard to evaluate a story that really happened, because real life doesn’t usually follow a three-act structure. The writers of these productions must balance the need to embellish the story enough that it’s interesting to watch without losing the essence of the real events.

True Spirit is an entirely conventional take on the genre. There’s nothing outstanding or unique about the production, but Teagan Croft’s performance is compelling, and the real-life story is inspiring. I do recommend reading some of Jessica Watson’s interviews, if not her books, since her story is incredible. I think the film does her justice, focusing on both the highs and lows of her journey, but also highlighting the power of dreams and hard work. Young audiences, and even adults, will be inspired by her insistence that anyone can follow their dream with effort and dedication. Watching the fictional Jessica break down in tears and frustration after being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no wind for days is a great reminder of the human behind the accomplishment, and that even the most inspiring people have bad days and doubts.

I found the production itself to be generic, with standard cinematography and editing. There are a lot of weird song choices as well, which could be jarring. At first, I thought they were trying to use music to set the time period, but some of the main songs are from well after 2010, so I don’t know what the director was thinking.

With very little negative content and an inspiring message, True Spirit is a great choice for family viewing. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in heart, and even I, with my cynical heart, can’t fault it too much for that.

Directed by Sarah Spillane. Starring Teagan Croft, Anna Paquin, Cliff Curtis. Running time: 109 minutes. Theatrical release February 3, 2023. Updated

Watch the trailer for True Spirit

True Spirit
Rating & Content Info

Why is True Spirit rated TV-PG? True Spirit is rated TV-PG by the MPAA for fear.

Violence: There are some scenes of a teenager in mild peril.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There are five uses of terms of deity and two mild expletives.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults toast with champagne.

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True Spirit Parents' Guide

Why is Jessica so determined to complete her journey? What obstacles does she face and how does she overcome them?

For more information about the true story of Jessica Watson’s sailing adventure, you can read the following links:

History vs Hollywood: True Spirit

American Sailing: True Spirit, An Interview with Jessica Watson

Distractify: Jessica Watson Says Netflix’s True Spirit Captures the “Essence” of What Her Voyage Was About

Jessica Watson


Loved this movie? Try these books…

If you want to hear Jessica Watson’s first person account of her sailing expedition, you can read her memoir, True Spirit. Ms. Watson is also tackling fiction and has released a YA novel entitled Indigo Blue. Not surprisingly, the story about a lonely teenager centers around sailing.

Sailing around the world has been the dream of many intrepid souls. The first to do so was Ferdinand Magellan and you can read the story of his epic voyage in Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen. Captain James Cook sailed over 150,000 miles before his untimely death and his voyages are recounted by Tony Horwitz in Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where mustCaptain Cook Has Gone Before. In Sailing Alone Around the World, Joshua Slocum recounts the tail of the first solo-circumnavigation. Peter Nichols has written A Voyage for Madmen, the story of nine men who decided to race each other around the world in 1968: only one made it back. Robin Lee Graham recounts his own solo sailing experience in Dove, the story of a five-year voyage that began in 1965 at age 16.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

If sailing is what you’re interested in, there are more movies you can watch. Also based on a true sailing story, Adrift amps up the tension and danger. The crew of a fishing boat must fight the perils of the sea in The Perfect Storm. A solo sailor is put in danger when his sailboat is struck and damaged by floating debris in All Is Lost.

There are also some excellent movies based on the inspiring lives of real life teenagers. The Swimmers depicts the courage and self-sacrifice demonstrated by two Syrian refugees as they make the dangerous trip to Germany to seek asylum. I Am Greta is a documentary feature about climate activist Greta Thunberg – and it features a pretty intense sailing scene. Children aren’t usually portrayed as heroes but Sky Blossom introduces viewers to some of the five million American children and teens who serve as caregivers for family members, many of whom are veterans. When a shark attack leaves her without an arm, a young woman does everything she can to return to the sport she loves in Soul Surfer.