A boy looks up to his big brother, Jack, who is his hero and is someone that he is not - brave, noble and has the courage to stand up to their father. When their father returns from the ...
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Two brothers witness the murder of their parents and grow up dealing with the tragedy in very different ways. As one brother struggles with mental illness and sleep paralysis, the other finds success in the unique world of found object art.
Thomas Francis Murphy
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A boy looks up to his big brother, Jack, who is his hero and is someone that he is not - brave, noble and has the courage to stand up to their father. When their father returns from the battlefields of France to his family, he sends his younger son to an apprenticeship in a jam factory designing the labels. There, his boss sends him off to art school, but his real passion is writing. He began to send small stories into the newspaper. While the boy cannot draw, he discovers that he has a talent for writing. The depression sets in. The older son, Jack, who had escaped to the country returns with a girl suffering double pneumonia. Worst of all she is a Catholic and the father hates Catholics. The phrase Susso kids: the outbreak of World war II. Brother Jack rushes to enlist and his brother was unable/not allowed because he was a key reporter for the newspapers. They need him for propaganda.Written by
The more you know the novel, and maybe something of author George Johnson's life, the more you can appreciate what a good adaption this is.
The character of Jack Meredith is one of the most iconic in Australian literature. He is the quintessential Australian male, especially of the first half of last century. He is possessed of the qualities that many Australians used to regard as uniquely Australian. No one with the exception of C.E.W. Bean, the great chronicler of Australia's role in WW1, has ever captured the essence of that spirit like George Johnson in "My Brother Jack".
Jack, played by Simon Lyndon, has a dynamic personality; seemingly without fear, he will give anything a go. He honours the ideal of Australian mateship almost as a religion, and would stand by a friend no matter what.
The story is seen from the viewpoint of David Meredith, Jack's younger brother, played by Matt Day, who narrates the film. The story follows the boys' lives from the end of WW1 when their embittered father returns from the war, through to the end of WW2.
Jack tries his hand at everything from sheep farming to working on a pipeline in Chile, and joins the army immediately on the outbreak of WW2. David gets a start on a newspaper where the editor sees his potential. Both marry; Jack happily, David unhappily. While Jack has few self-doubts, David is cynical and less sure of himself. Where Jack would always stand by a mate, David is too self-serving; when one of his friends is charged with murder, David distances himself as quickly as possible.
However, Jack is unlucky, injuries prevent him from serving overseas during the war, which hurts his pride, while David ends up a respected war correspondent. The film ends with David living with a new wife in Greece, and Jack more or less living in the shadow of his younger brother's success.
A few characters and incidents were omitted from the film. I'm sorry the filmmakers didn't include the fight in the brickyard with Dud Bennett where Jack made short work of the bully, illustrating Jack's daring and sense of justice.
The book was self-revelatory for George Johnson, but he didn't cast his alter ego in a flattering light. In fact, the filmmakers seemed to have accentuated David Meredith's sense of self-loathing.
Of course, many of Jack Meredith's traits are universal. I have always felt that Jack was a kindred spirit to Paul Maclean, Brad Pitt's character in Robert Redford's "A River Runs Through It" - both shared an inner spirit that didn't allow for a backward step.
But what gave Jack his uniquely Australian identity was that strong character combined with an almost mystical sense of mateship. While critical of much else about the culture, Johnson did capture that essential quality in his great novel, and this well-made mini-series does an impressive job in bringing it to life on the screen.
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