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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.
'The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant' tells the breathtaking tale of
Cornish convict Mary Bryant (Romola Garai), convicted for stealing a
bonnet and bread and sentenced to England's new Colony on the other
side of the world in Australia. Mary, who had never been more than 5
miles outside of her village, made the journey with the first fleet in
1787, on the boat commanded by Captain Clarke (Jack Davenport). Clarke
has a vision of reform for the convicts, an idea which clashes with the
beliefs of Governor Arthur Phillip (Sam Neill) who sees no hope for
England's trash. Clarke has particular hope for the wide-eyed angelic
Mary; raped while in jail in England, Mary was pregnant during the
voyage and the birth of her baby girl in the horrendous conditions of
the boats is miraculous in itself, but Mary's journey doesn't end
there. Arriving at the new colony in New South Wales in 1788 Mary
marries Will Bryant, another Cornish convict they and other newly-wed
convicts reap the benefits of their marriage as they are granted
permission to build a house. Mary and other female convicts are
outnumbered by the men 5:1, a gory scene of rape, pillage and plunder
harshly depicts exactly how terrible the colonies conditions were for
the women of 1788. Not only that, but water is scarce and crops do not
grow in the poor soil. Mary, now with 2 children, proposes a plan with
her husband to escape from the island prison, by stealing the colonies
cutter boat and sailing 4 thousand miles to Timor with 5 other male
convicts. But, as Governor Phillip exclaims; "the burden of carrying a
woman, and children, no - even if they survive the sea, they'll never
survive each other" so begins Mary's truly incredible and
This is a truly spectacular Australian mini-series, and no surprise since it had a budget in excess of $15 million and is the largest television mini-series ever made in Australia. Directed by Peter Andrikidis and shot over 12 weeks in 22 locations, 'Mary Bryant' is a real accomplishment. The sets are spectacular; from the claustrophobic, sickening hull of the convict ships, to the stifling and scorching colony; every set perfectly evokes the atmosphere of the times and adds to the grandeur of the mini, aided with the beautiful music score of Iva Davies. Of course 'Mary Bryant' isn't always historically accurate, but it's practically impossible for it to be; there are few records of the first fleet's journey and following the events depicted in this mini, Mary Bryant all but vanished from the face of the earth. And despite Mary and Clarke being on the same ship in the first fleet, there is no evidence that they ever had a tumultuous love affair. But where there were plot-holes in history, writer Peter Berry adequately fills in angst-ridden characters and suspenseful plot.
The characters for this larger than life tale are perfectly cast. Romola Garai stars in her first epic role but is no stranger to period pieces; having starred in 'Nicholas Nickelby' and 'Vanity Fair'. Despite Garai's milk skin and doe eyes, she brings sharpness to Mary's strong-willed character; sometimes you resent her, but Garai knows when to make you sympathize and warm to her, and you do. Alex O'Lachlan is a NIDA graduate and his character of Mary's husband, Will is his first big role. He has charm and like Garai, can evoke feelings of bitterness towards the character which gives Will more depth. Jack Davenport rounds out the major leads as Captain Clarke; like O'Lachlan and Garai, Davenport portrays a complicated and multi-faceted character. We see tender moments of real love on Clarke's behalf when Mary seduces him as apart of her plan to escape; one criticism may be that the storyline and lengthy character development between Mary and Clarke means that the audience sees more reason for Mary to be with him, rather than Will. Just as quickly Davenport evokes bitter resentment as Clarke's obsession with Mary destroys and devastates. Even the minor characters deserve praise; Abe Forsythe's innocent charm and adorable looks stir sympathy as Sam, and Sam Neill's stony demeanor perfectly suits for the unsympathetic Governor Phillip assigned the almost impossible task of creating a new society on the barren Australian land.
This is a truly spectacular Australian mini-series, an accomplishment on all fronts, and what makes it truly amazing is it's derived from a true story.
This 2 part series was spectacular. I was surprised it was not made into a movie and shown at the cinema. I loved Mary's character that was portrayed brilliantly by a very talented actress. As a great fan of period dramas, I would definitely consider this one of the best I have seen and would highly recommend it. All the characters were portrayed well and the quality of acting was Superb. The scenery and settings were spot on. Having read books on the topic of convicts in Austalia. I found this incredibly real to what life must have been like for those who traveled on such ships. Mary's will to live and the story of her journey was remarkable. Sam Neil is fantastic as the Admiral and 'Will' was played, again superbly, by yet another talented actor. By the end I was in tears and couldn't sleep for thinking of this fantastic mini-series. I will definitely buy this on DVD and no doubt watch it again and again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This stirring but harrowing adventure was wonderfully produced,
directed, filmed and acted. Credit must also go to wardrobe, make-up,
and design crews. The sets could not have been bettered. Outstanding
work. And of course the music behind it all must not be forgotten.
Romola Garai in the title role played it to perfection, likewise in their roles did her two co-stars, Jack Davenport as Lt Ralph Clarke (the colony's military CO), and Alex O'Loughlin as Will Bryant, and were each more than ably supported by the whole magnificent cast of which special praise has to go to the performance of Tony Martin as his namesake (surname) character. Slightly on the downside I did feel that the highly talented Sam Neill as the colony governor was somewhat under-used, and probably as a consequence a tad under-par. But I think maybe I'm being a little over picky.
It is based on the true story of young convict Mary Bryant's (nee Broad) transportation to and escape from the Botany Bay penal colony. This included a little matter of giving birth on board ship, and marriage to fellow convict William Bryant after disembarkation, in between.
This two-part mini-series was gripping from start to finish. However as usual in this type of production there were a few historical mistakes and omissions in the story.
A good deal of the drama centred on Mary's divisive use of the unwitting Lt Ralph Clarke (a fictional character) both for her own convenience, later for escape purposes, and his unrequited jealously obsessional love for her. Why it was deemed necessary to put this extra and completely false complication into the story I'm not sure, because the true saga stands on it's own merits without interference. It was an interesting complication nonetheless, but this coupled with his pursuit across land accompanied by marines were pure fabrication.
William, as a sailor, albeit smuggler, was certainly put in charge of the fishing boats. However in no way was he given a percentage of the catch, but the black-market opportunities were too good for him to resist. He was caught selling some of the fish on the sly, and received 100 lashes for his efforts. It was at this point that William (not Mary) decided to initiate an escape attempt. And he had all the needful at hand.
Once away from the colony in a cutter stolen from the Governor, the escapees were never pursued either on land or by sea, and the only skirmishes they encountered were not with the militia but with the aborigines. In fact a great many of the guards were sympathetic to the escape.
This notwithstanding, the unfolding events depicted were all fairly (although not entirely) accurate until Lt Clarke landed at Timor and discovered that the escapees were there. This is where the story, historically-wise, went a little further awry.
William Bryant did in fact have words with his wife, after which he informed against himself, Mary, the children and all the other escapees, whereupon they were all immediately taken prisoner, detained in the castle and strictly examined. But it was not, in the true events, the said fictional Lt. Clarke who then arrived on the scene, but a certain Captain Edward Edwards, who had been pursuing the Bounty mutineers in the Pandora. He had captured some of the mutineers at Tahiti, but then his ship was lost after it ran against a reef just south of New Guinea. He and 120 survivors escaped the wreck, and in a longboat and two yawls, had managed to reach Timor, and it was there that he was told about Mary and her comrades.
Captain Edwards clapped the Bryant party in irons, put them on board the Rembang, a Dutch East Indiaman, and they were transported to Batavia where just before Christmas I791 both William Bryant and his little son Emanuel died of fever. William was not shot on a beach as depicted, and Mary did not escape with her two children only to be recaptured. And of course little Emanuel was not buried at sea.
After this the tale veers back to a reasonable actuality, give or take a few omissions. On May 5th 1792, Mary's three-year old Charlotte died and her body was indeed committed to the deep, and Mary, when reaching London, was imprisoned in Newgate as an escaped felon, sentenced, but then released due to public pressure. She returned to Cornwall, remarried, and faded into obscurity.
The historical inaccuracies noted above do not however take away the fact that this is a superb drama, which highlights to great effect the barbaric treatment of transported convicts in the 18th century (most of whom were probably unjustly sentenced in the first place), and as a drama I couldn't fault it one iota. I would recommend this outstanding piece of work as one not to be missed. It is TV story-telling at it's very best.
The reaction to the British miniseries 'The incredible journey of Mary Bryant' seems to be a sign of the times: Whereas the accolades poured in for the portrayals of Mary and her husband, the masterfully portrayed character of Officer Clarke was misunderstood / brushed over and his complex relationship with Mary largely ignored. In my book Mary was a selfish b..., solely driven by the will to survive, with little regard for the feelings of others except those of her immediate family. Officer Clarke, on the other hand, is a much more complex character: The product of a morally strict and repressive upbringing, he is basically a decent, kind man who ends up acting mercilessly (within the framework of the cruelty sanctioned or even demanded by his job) when his pride is wounded. That is his Achilles' heel. He suffers intense humiliation when Mary, in pursuit of her own selfish agenda, at first liberates him from his inhibitions and then betrays his trust and makes a fool of him in front of his peers. The realization of her callous exploitation of his kindness and his feelings seriously wounds his whole identity. Nevertheless, he can't get himself to kill her when he has her at his mercy (in his musket's visor): Twice he lets her escape; it's only the third time that he finally 'delivers her to justice' - and had Mary not once again revealed her falseness to him by sidling up to him again, he probably would have let her escape once more. All the time he finds himself in the struggle to keep his dignity. Jack Davenport's superb portrayal of this emotionally rich and complex character deserves the highest praise. To me it was the actual focus of the film. Barbara N.
This was an excellent and entertaining movie, with convincing costumes and settings. The depiction of the horror of the sea voyages, the appalling nature of life in the convict settlement (scarcely better for the overseeing officials then for the convicts) and the relative luxury and colour of life in the Dutch colony of Timor were all powerfully vivid and evoked a strong sense of place and time. However, too perfect teeth are a recurring difficulty in period movies! The casting of the main characters was first rate, with Romola Garai as Mary shedding the fragility and innocence we saw in 'I Capture the Castle', and displaying considerable depth and emotional strength. Jack Davenport's outstanding performance as one of the marine officers was characterised by moral ambivalence and confusion in someone half a world away from his cultural certainties. Alex O'Loughlin as Will Bryant was a very effective counterweight to Davenport, giving a compelling account of a convicted Cornish smuggler and fisherman struggling within his own clear if unconventional moral framework. This fine team were supported by equally strong performances from the rest of the cast. Authenticity of detail of costume and setting was not however matched by authenticity of narrative the script takes liberties with events, relationships and the fates of some characters. Although much is not known about Mary's life, some known facts were abused! However the main thrust of Mary's story retains its integrity and the movie provides a welcome testament to an otherwise neglected extraordinary figure from English and Australian - history.
Mary Bryant was a remarkable person and this mini-series starred remarkable actors who held together a wonderfully moving recollection of a dark time in the history of Brittan and the beginnings of Australia. It frightens me that my country was essentially founded with such atrocities and in such inhumane ways. I knew of the injustices that would later come about with more force for the Aboriginal people, but scarcely thought of the convicts that were dumped there. I had never really looked at the first fleet the way I did when watching the series, it opened my eyes and those of all of us who've seen it, that I'm sure. All in all there were top film making and superb character portrayals in a very important story to remember of the right of each human being to live and to have redemption from there (often petty) mistakes. I will be listening up for Alex O'Lachlan's name in the future and am sure to follow Romola's acting career with deep interest.
Before I start I would like to say Australia has THE BEST MINI SERIES,
for example some great Aussie mini series are: Blue Murder, The Day of
the Roses, Jessica and this Mary Bryant to name a few while the
Americans had crappy ones like the 4400 and Battlestar Gallactica which
I was looking forward to but was disappointing. I think the secret to
Aussie mini series success is because some are based on true stories
and are interesting to learn some true events, they are realistic, you
can relate to the characters, the locations show how beautiful
Australia is and in these mini series there is a chance that the
viewers of these shows have been to the location where it happen and
know the area like in The Day of the Roses Granville.
Mary Bryant (based on a true story) shows the life of Mary Broad a young seventeen year old pregnant girl who is on the first fleet sent to Australia for stealing food for her starving family, on the journey over she meets and befriends a man by the name of Wil Bryant who she later marries when they reach land. Sick of their life at the colony they plan to escape with five others and Mary's children to Timor. This is a great story that has a great Australian and international cast who play their roles perfectly. This is another great Aussie mini series that should not be missed just like the other Aussie mini series highly recommended!
A truly phenomenal film which has restored my faith in the Australian
Film Industry. However, it was too good to be a telemovie - I wonder
why they did not give it a go at the cinemas.
It is going to clean up at the AFIs - I hope it does.
Everyone's acting was fantastic, the plot was incredible and everything about it made me question how Australia could possibly have made it. I mean we are notorious for creating crap films and then telemovies like 'Jessica' and 'Mary Brant' come along and you just go "aaaaah, thank god!" A well deserved 9/10, I hope channel 10 get the ratings and accolades they deserve for this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In shades of blue the story begins with Mary Broad (Romola Garai)
running from the law after stealing a bonnet through the bleak English
landscape. For her crime she is sent to Botany Bay as a convict on the
First Fleet and it is on this journey that the story begins. It is here
she meets the British Naval Officer Clarke (Jack Davenport) and William
Bryant (Alex O'Loughlin), whom she later marries.
Garai (as always) is mesmerizing as the desperate Mary Bryant, with an indomitable will to protect the futures of her children from poverty at all costs. The determination of this character is supported with strong performances from O'Loughlin and Davenport. But it is Alex O'Loughlin who remains, in my mind, a stand out.
He is truly captivating as William Bryant, a man that is quietly unsure of him self. He is to a degree searching for self validation in the most masculine sense but this is somewhat complicated by living his determined and strong willed wife Mary.
Directed by Peter Andrikidis (who also directed the Australian two part movie 'Jessica'), there has in many ways, never been a more confronting imagery presented on Australian screens. Particularly the scene whereby Andrikidis captures the terror and brutality reaped on the women convicts by the men while the British Officers passively look on. Trust me when I say that the poignancy of this scene will stay with you forever! Acting to dispel any romanticized ideals (and we all have at some time or another) of early settler life in Australia, especially for women.
Despite these accolades there is something amiss in this account of Mary Bryant's story which I can not exactly pin point. Perhaps it could be something of a naivety in Garai's portrayal, an innocence which acts to unintentionally undermine the veracity of Mary Bryant. Or maybe it is Sam Neil (who I think was better left at Jurassic Park!) as a Governor Phillip that fails to evoke any real emotion within the audience towards his character.
At the same time there is this sense that the story was cut short before it was ready. There is not real detail into Mary's trail when she returns to England, despite is importance to the story. It almost seems as though the producers got to the end, ran out of money (which would not be surprising considering the current state of the Australian Film Industry!) and had to rush the ending, leaving the audience feeling somewhat let down.
Yet, while there is faults in this interpretation (lets not forget the pearly whites of our convicts, a very unlikely depiction!) there is no doubt in my mind that it is worth seeing. In reality it is as much an English story as it is Australian. So if you're looking for some great performances and want to enjoy a great story of, love, betrayal and determination, Mary Bryant is well worth watching!
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