The New World

  • Directors: Terrence Malick
  • Producers: Sarah Green, Terrence Malick
  • Writers: Terrence Malick
  • Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama, History, Romance
  • Actors: Colin Farrell, Q Orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale

The film begins with a young Native American woman offering a prayer to Mother Earth. While never referred to by name, she is understood to be Pocahontas. The woman and others from her tribe witness the arrival of three ships. It is Virginia, the year 1607, and the ships are part of the Jamestown Expedition, sent by English royal charter to found a colony in the “New World.” Aboard one of the ships we see a man, later identified as Captain John Smith, below decks, in chains. While initially sentenced to death by hanging for his mutinous remarks, once ashore, Smith is pardoned by Captain Christopher Newport, the leader of the expedition.

While the prospects for the settlement are initially bright, disease, poor discipline, supply shortages, and tensions with the local Native Americans (who Newport calls “the naturals” rather than “the savages” used by Radcliffe in the 1995 Disney film) place the expedition in jeopardy. Smith is given the opportunity to restore his reputation by taking a small group of men up river to seek trade while Newport returns to England for supplies. While on this mission, Smith is captured by a group of Native Americans and brought before their chief. After being questioned, the captain is nearly executed but is spared when one of the chief’s daughters (the same young woman from the beginning of the film) throws herself across his body, saving his life.

Embracing her husband, Pocahontas and Rolfe make arrangements to return to Virginia. However, on the outward passage, she falls ill and suddenly dies. The film ends with images of Pocahontas and her young son playing in the gardens of their English estate as Rolfe, in a voice over, reads a letter, addressed to their son about his deceased mother. In the film’s closing moments, Pocahontas says “Mother, now I know where you live”, having found peace through her strength to grow past her wounds, the film ends with images of nature.