Us Brits tend to know Mc Kern mainly in the long-running (1978-92) Rumpole of the Bailey, but he played all-sorts, starting out in 1951, from Classics (Man For All Seasons) to comedy but it took until this film in 1987 for him to star in his native Australia for the very first time.
In David Williamson's adaptation of his own hit play, he extends retired civil engineer Frank's (Mc Kern) new relationship with the younger Frances (Julia Blake) out into a wider world and into the film's title, where he starts a new life in Queensland and away from his home-town of Melbourne.
Ignore the rather gooey DVD image, this movie has substance; this may well be a comedy (quite a fine one) and have elements of romance, but it isn't a schmaltzy weepy. Frank is a speak-as-he-thinks communist who is prone to rubbing folk up the wrong way. A medical check-up reveals he is suffering from angina and this brings out the best and very worst in dear, crusty Frank.
Frank likes his fishing and there are quite a few beautiful landscapes, often with him fishing! These help set the tone and the reasons why the upheaval of moving home proved irresistible. They also help smooth out the fractious moods that Frank conjures up, allowing for a well-rounded film. There's also a great, lively classical music soundtrack which is always fitting to the scene.
We all know the Frank's in this world, whether in the family or as neighbours. His sardonic put-downs often back-fire and his scrambles back up the slippery slopes of retribution are both enjoyable and clever. Somehow though, we do feel that there is a softer heart beating in there all along and this makes for a great film and Frank very believable. Both his frustrated doctor, Saul (Henri Szeps) and local, Freddy (Graham Kennedy) become firm friends with the couple and feature as sparring partners to his arguments.
I watched Travelling North as part of the 12 DVD boxed set 'Australian Cinema vol 1.'
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