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| 7 February 2018 | Reply

Directed by Warwick Thornton
Starring Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Tremayne & Trevon Doolan, Hamilton Morris
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Australia is a sweet country for many of us, that is for sure, but the nation’s historical and present-day treatment of her Indigenous peoples is a disgrace. Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah)’s adaptation of this true story isn’t merely a sad tale of frontier injustice, it’s themes of racism, inequality and mistreatment socially and legally ripple right through to the current day.

Sam Neill’s Fred Smith is an inept preacher who lives on a scrappy patch with stockman Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris), his wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber) and their niece.

When PTSD-ridden war veteran Harry March (Ewen Leslie) purchases the plot next door he persuades Smith to “loan” him the use of Sam and Lizzie to put in fences and clean the place up, and it’s not too long before the alcoholic, damaged, almost inhuman March rapes Lizzie and has a go at Sam.

Lizzie tries to keep the assault a secret, but is pregnant, which Sam finds out after March tries to erroneously shoot Kelly for harbouring young runaway Philomac (played well by twins Tremayne and Trevon Doolan), an encounter which results in Kelly killing March.

Sam knows he will hang for killing a white man, so he and Lizzie set off into the bush, obsessively pursued by Sergeant Fletcher, a man only too eager to assume Sam’s guilt without knowing the facts, and we’ll leave it there so as not to drop any spoilers.

The cinematography is stunning, showing us the rough, arid nature of the land, where beauty hides a dozen ways to kill you, whilst the acting – much of it by amateur actors – is uniformly excellent.

The end will shock you, even if it’s not a surprise, but more shocking is that we see images all the time of aboriginal people living in squalid conditions, yet don’t find them shocking enough. Not much has changed for Indigenous Australia since the 1920s, and this important movie deserves to go a long way to educate white Australians that it is well past time for a seismic shift on a social level.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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