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Instant heartwarming Aussie classic. The Merger has it all.
Set in a small country town in New South Wales, the zeitgeist is a familiar one to many Australians who live in declining rural areas. The timber mill has been closed, people are leaving and the footy club can't get enough players to keep fielding a team. Added to the mix are a range of newly arrived refugees. Many in the community see them as a responsibility and a resource but others are less welcoming.
The title of the film refers to a plan to combine with another local footy team but the story told is of an alternative which is to teach the newcomers to play Aussie rules. The story is told mostly through the eyes of 10 year old Neil, a budding film maker who lost his Dad in a motorcycle accident. Young Neil decides to make a documentary about the local loner, Troy Carrington, who was once a footy star but whose conservationist tendencies have made him an outcast. It has to remind us of the way young Dale Kerrigan (Stephen Curry) told the story of his Dad's heroic attempts to save the family home from compulsory acquisition in The Castle.
The Merger combines the fortunes of the footy team and the interaction of the locals with the newcomers with a romantic thread and a subtle exploration of grief for the loss of loved ones. It captures the regional background in a clever way as it shows different reactions to change. From the opening frames it looks fantastic.
There are lots of wonderful characters too, in particular the young lad played by Rafferty Grierson and his mother played by the winning Kate Mulvany (a Patricia Arquette lookalike). The maestro here though is beloved stand-up comedian Damian Callinan who wrote the script and plays the central character, Troy. Callinan is now an undisputed Aussie legend.
Like The Castle (Australia's #1 loved film), The Merger is quintessentially Australian with a heart-warming universal trajectory, cajoling the audience along on a steady stream of endearing, wry humour, definitely not coarse or broad but often laugh-out-loud. The soundtrack of stellar Australian musicians including rousing songs from Daddy Cool, Paul Kelly, Archie Roach and more is a match for the other brilliant elements.
The Merger is an instant Aussie classic that will do a power of good, not just for audience members but by gently prodding the national psyche of refugee averse Australia. There's many a touching moment, too with plenty of scope for a sob if you are so inclined.
Three D radio
Let's Go To The Pictures
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