The Movie Date: Tomorrow, When the War Began

The Movie Date button The Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to YA readers. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he discusses Tomorrow, When the War Began, a 2010 film based on the YA novel of the same name by John Marsden.

tomorrow when the war began movie poster

After a camping trip in the wilderness, a resourceful Australian teen and her friends discover that their town has been invaded and their loved ones taken prisoner.

When her best friend Corrie tells sensible farm girl Ellie that she’s lost her virginity, the two of them decide to celebrate with a group camping trip. They collect five friends of varying personalities and backgrounds, hop in Ellie’s parents’ Range Rover, and head out for Hell. Far from an inferno, this destination is an idyllic, sheltered campsite with its own lake, the perfect locale for teen hijinks. But one night the sky is filled with fighter jets, and when they return to civilization it’s no longer civilized: all their families have been taken to an induction center in a stadium downtown. Fighting back would be great, but above all Ellie and her friends must avoid the frequent neighborhood patrols and simply stay alive… tomorrow when the war began movie still 1 Based on an Australian YA novel from 1993 that launched its own seven-book series, this film’s storyline might sound a bit like the 1984 American film Red Dawn (or its 2012 remake). Apart from the broad story arc, though, the films aren’t really similar at all. Whereas Red Dawn is an action movie utilizing teens, this is more of a teen movie with a bit of action thrown in; the focus is not on fighting enemies but surviving adversity. Though there’s some shooting and explosions, the focus is instead on the seven characters, joined by a helpful eighth teen partway through the film.

As in The Breakfast Club, we meet each member of the gang as a stereotype that blossoms into a fully-fledged character throughout the film: the prissy hot girl doesn’t think she’s pretty; the freewheeling Greek kid is both smart and responsible; the religious girl must learn to use a rifle. As you might expect, the four girls and four guys eventually form couples to some degree. Tomorrow when the war began motorcycles Our girl Ellie Linton (played memorably by the promising Caitlin Stasey) is a great YA heroine: brave but vulnerable, romantic but distracted, likeable but flawed (when a team member falls asleep on watch, she overreacts and threatens his life). After blowing up a half-dozen enemy soldiers, she’s horrified to see that one victim is a young woman about her age. “How many people is it okay to kill in order to keep me alive?” she wonders, asking a crucial ethical question seldom heard in action films. Caitlin Stasey as Ellie We never really learn which nation (or terrorist group) is behind the invasion, and as far as we’re concerned that doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that, for whatever reason, these kids find their own strength in the absence of adults, and they do. I found myself unusually caught up in each kid’s own personal drama and enjoyed watching them grow up in a matter of days.

Amusingly, the film humbly acknowledges its own literary origins. In one scene Cassie reads the 1901 novel My Brilliant Career, made into a 1979 film, and comments that it’s “better than the movie.” “Books usually are,” agrees Ellie. That said, I found this film strong and smart in its own right; no apologies necessary. phoebe tonkin gif tomorrow   Tomorrow, When the War Began is now playing on Netflix streaming. This film is rated R and runs 103minutes.

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6 thoughts on “The Movie Date: Tomorrow, When the War Began

  1. Great post! It’s nice to see some Australian books/movies in the spotlight. Tomorrow When The War Began was a great movie but it’s a FANTASTIC book (isn’t that always the way). I read it for English in high school and never read further into the series but I still want to. So I recommend to read and watch it! But you definitely don’t need to read the book first to enjoy the movie.

  2. Nigma says:

    If you liked the movie, read the books. You’ll love them. If you didn’t like the movie, read the books as well. They are a lot, lot better. You’ll probably love them. If you’ve read the books, skip the film. Most likely, like me, you’ll be disappointed.

    The big problem with the movie is that it feels made for an American audience. One of the best things about the books is their portrayal of small-town Australia and the landscape surrounding it. I get the impression that the filmmakers thought that an overseas audience wouldn’t be able to relate to it and went with a very slick, tourism commercial, “book your next holiday here now!” portrayal, which looks very pretty but has no substance or authenticity.

  3. Nessa Luna says:

    I loved the book series, and I really liked the movie as well! Such a shame they’re probably not making the other books into movies, but of course we’ll still have the books! 😀

  4. I’ve read the series but still haven’t gotten around to seeing this movie! I’m glad you enjoyed it and that you found the characters engaging, I’ll definitely try and watch it soon

    Mands @ The Bookish Manicurist

  5. I’ve had this one on my list to try and check out. Of course the TBR pile is miles long, but I’ve been meaning to check out the books as well. I’ve heard good things!

  6. kay says:

    How interesting! I had heard of the book, but not of the movie. Netflix here doesn’t run it for now, but I’ll definitely keep in mind to give it a try.

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