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Expectations for the lowish-budget Aussie surfing film Drift were not pitched overly high. My local cinema's synopsis of the story about two brothers who 'spend their youth searching for the perfect wave (dreaming) of a world where they can surf to live and live to surf' I pretty much felt sure what I was letting myself in for.
But the film delivered more than was promised.
The film has a lively start, with the brothers as young children arriving fortuitously at the Western Australian surf town which would become their home after the cross-continent drive from Sydney where their mother had executed a tense midnight flit for the three of them to escape their drunken brute of a father.
The action quickly fast forwards to their young adulthood as they lead a laid back if dead-end lifestyle before realising they can make surfboards better than those commercially available, moulding them in the garage at their home as their seamstress mother starts fashioning custom-made wetsuits. Their ambitions to expand are constantly thwarted by a lack of funds, the myopic tendencies of the town's old world conservative bank manager and the unwanted attentions of the local constabulary suspicious of their motives and lifestyle. Matters are complicated by a feud with the local bikie-gang also the town's drug suppliers.
A talented, itinerant and very hirsute surf filmmaker, a slightly unconvincing Sam Worthington, arrives on the scene in his bus-come-home with an attractive Hawaiian companion befriending the brothers and giving them much needed support in their constant battles with the bikies and encouragement in their enterprises.
The main characterisations within the film were well drawn. Myles Pollard gave a stand-out performance as the elder brother, Andy, whose drive and business acumen didn't impinge upon his enjoyment of the more flippant things in life. The younger, rather wayward and unreliable brother Jimmy was nicely played by Xavier Samuel with roguish charm. Their mutual attraction and rivalry for the Hawaiian girl was subtly underplayed.
The story swept along at a good pace and remained surprisingly fresh and original until the film's showdown. In debt to the bikies after becoming unwittingly involved in a drug deal by an accomplice, the boys desperately need cash they don't have. But as luck would have it, there is an upcoming major surf competition on the horizon. If only this could be won and the cash prize used to get them out of trouble
Jimmy, the more talented surfer, has gone walkabout so it falls to Andy to register as a wild-card entrant and save both their dreams and business as well as his unbroken legs. From that point onwards, we were in rather familiar territory.
This is a small scale film, well aware of its limitations which on the whole punched nicely above its weight. It portrayed a dark side to the sleepy coastal town to a degree I had not expected. Cinematography from Geoffrey Hall was first rate capturing the beauty and awesome power of the surf. There is enough good surfing action to please the aficionados but not at the expense of developing story and characters. A sporadic glam-rock soundtrack was insufficient, possibly the result of budget restraints.
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