1902....the Australian Federation is a year old. Twelve year-old Tom's beloved father, Nat, has dragged him and his sister, Sarah, to an isolated farm at the edge of the woods. But Nat's ...
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1902....the Australian Federation is a year old. Twelve year-old Tom's beloved father, Nat, has dragged him and his sister, Sarah, to an isolated farm at the edge of the woods. But Nat's dream of living off the land has died and he is losing his grip on sanity. When three ex-soldiers arrive at their cabin one night Tom, like his father, believes they are providence. But their presence becomes more menacing when one of them reveals a secret: he's found gold. As the lure of gold infects everyone around him the cabin becomes a psychological battleground in which Tom's loyalty is put to the ultimate test. Written by
Smoking Gun Productions
I took my son to see this movie at the Australian Cinema Festival at the London Barbican earlier this year and we were both really moved by it. The entire theatre was gasping for breath at the end and many had tears in their eyes. Very powerful stuff. We immediately ordered the DVD to share with friends here.
I felt compelled to write a review after seeing an earlier posting and reading back through some of the reviews of the film on other sites, to find either thoughtful praise on the one hand or vitriolic ranting on the other, and this was a curious thing because it's really a very simple, powerful film.
I'm old enough to remember the reactions to Wake in Fright. Now regarded as an Australian classic the first responses were an explosion of anger. I left Australia for the UK a few years after and always felt that we had an almost pathological inability as a nation to shine a light on ourselves, and that's really what this film is doing. Being a regular at the London Australian Film Festival I've watched with some pride the change happening with brave independent films over the last few years, scratching at the surface of the Australian national psyche, and was very saddened to find in some of the Australian reviews the same old knee-jerk disdain for intellect and anything that doesn't paint the country in a noble light. Certainly the multiple ironies at work in the character who says the wonderful line 'bet you thought it was going to be all Henry bloody Lawson' seem to have gone over the heads of some people.
Watching the DVD extras I found there was a different opening that was taken out - why isn't explained - that sets up the characters better: the mother is present in the original and the film now appears to start ten minutes in. This may help some people access the film a little easier, but regardless of this the film works so magnificently as a dark, visceral thriller anyway that it's really hard to see how people could have a hard time with it unless they're responding with a political agenda.
I notice that Christos Tsiolkas is receiving the same kind of responses for The Slap and in an interview in today's Guardian he celebrates this, saying that if you can move an audience to those extremes of anger on one side and thoughtful praise on the other you're doing something right because you're forcing people's insecurities to the surface. The filmmakers of Lucky Country should be equally proud and I wouldn't be at all surprised if this brave film finds itself being lauded in a few years' time in the same way Wake in Fright has been.
For anybody interested in a genuinely thoughtful dialogue about Australia and Australians' place in it this really is a must-see. And if you happen to like unusual thrillers with great visual beauty and a considerable amount of menace this film is for you.
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