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Will Bryant and Mary are among the petty common criminals who are condemned by British justice to deportation to the new Botany Bay penal colony in Australia. The long sailing voyage is eventful, with them falling in love but her also seducing the noble, naive lieutenant Ralph Clarke. In the colony, life is terribly harsh. Ultimately, the pair and some other convicts organize a successful escape by boat. Barely alive, they reach Dutch Timor, and hope to be in the clear. Written by
Mary Bryant is a true achievement considering it is made for television. During the last few years, the Australian film and television industry has been suffering enormously due to lack of funding and lack of good screenplays. After having watched Mary Bryant last night it has restored my faith in the Australian industry.
Mary Bryant is a true Australian tale, telling the story of young Cornish girl Mary Broad, who is transported to New South Wales, to Sydney Cove after stealing a bonnet. on the way over she meets two men, Will Bryant who she marries and Lt. Clarke a soldier in the Queen's naval army who takes a liking to her and ultimately falls in love with her the feeling being returned.
The realism of the conditions the convicts faced in 1788 when trying to build a new colony for themselves is very well done - the best I've seen for a long time. The scene where the male convicts go crazy and take advantage of the women convicts is terrible, not so much in that the film makers expose us too long to the scene, but the very fact that the soldiers, including Governor Phillip (played by Sam Neill) just watch, until one of the solider's quips 'the whores had it coming to them' and Governor Philip saying 'we'll just let things run its course.' Having been a fan of Romola Garai's since seeing her in 'I capture the castle' and 'Daniel Deronda', her performance did not disappoint. She is an excellent actress. It was quite liberating to see her break out of her good girl English rose role she always plays - from the sweet innocent Cassandra in 'I capture the castle' to the sweet innocent friend of Becky Sharp in 'Vanity Fair'.
Jack Davenport's portrayal of Clarke was done very well, brilliantly under played and you got a sense of a man who, like in 1788, became very different if living in primitive conditions on a new land, like the first fleet had to endure when arrived in New South Wales. A clear example is when Mary starts to live with him (in order to help her family escape to Timor - seen in part two) and at times he handles her roughly when kissing her (mixing dominance with pleasure) and beds her at every possible opportunity...a far cry to what he would have done in England. But in those times in Australia, it would not have been an improbable romance.
Sam Neil's portrayal of Phillip did disappoint me a bit, as you did not get a sense of the person behind the title, but you did however get the sense he was a strong character, but that was all. At times the story did tend to slow down a bit, but not enough to make real difference to the story.
An interesting insight into the part of history, which we don't get to see much on Australian television screens and I hope Australia will begin to produce as many high quality dramas as Mary Bryant.
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