Australia – film review

Posted on: 11/02/2009

Title: Australia

Director: Baz Luhrmann 

Reviewed by Emma Ede   Rating: **** 

“Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be.” 

When I saw the trailers for Australia, I didn’t think that it would be quite my cup of tea. With a running time of 165 minutes – that’s 2 hours, 45 minutes – I assumed that it would be more than a little long winded, for a film with a plot largely based, at least during the first half, around herding cattle. The trailer highlights the romance of the story as its main selling point. This, I think, is a flaw in the marketing.  

What Australia is really about isn’t the romance between two different people. It is about the love and friendship that can grow between a group of people, about how little the differences of class and race can matter, and about challenging what we know to be wrong, even if only within the people immediately around us.  

The film is an emotional roller-coaster, with one-liners to make you laugh, and heart wrenching moments to make you cry. It is still, inherently, a “girly” movie, no matter how many important issues it addresses.

I have never before cried at a movie – but I have seen this twice, and, despite knowing exactly how the plot unfolds the second time, cried equally at both screenings. I would advise you to take tissues, make – up remover and spare mascara. Lots of tissues. If you’re a Hugh Jackman fan, it might also be worth taking something to catch the drool.  

Australia has been slated by the critics, but often public opinion differs. Australia hasn’t been the most popular movie at the box office, in this case, but that may be because the potential audience has been put off by the critics, and the running length. This is a movie you have to be willing to get into. You have to invest in the characters. If you do, you will be rewarded with an evocative, turbulent plot that makes the time fly.

Nicole Kidman’s excellent progression of a woman slowly changing – losing her starch and becoming more friendly and open makes an otherwise difficult to like character wonderful. The depiction of a woman whose eyes suddenly open to other lifestyles than that she has led thus far is slow but effective – indeed, the character is another person at the climax of the movie to who she is at the opening.

Hugh Jackman plays his part wonderfully, though I accept I may be biased after the scene of him topless. There is a mystery to the Drover, and for a man who the audience first sees in a bar fight, a surprising gentleness.

For me, though, the star is the young debutant Brandon Walters. His character, Nullah, is the glue that ties all the separate ideas and scenes of the movie together, and without him, and his narration, the movie just wouldn’t work. Walters plays the part with a touching innocence, and yet, in some scenes, a terrible understanding of life and death for one so young.  

I don’t know how much the average British man or woman knows about the treatment of the aboriginal race, or about the “stolen generation”, in the history of Australia. I know that I only have a very sparse knowledge, most of which comes from snippets of news reports that I remember from the official apology that was given by the Australian Prime Minister in 2008, more than 30 years after the separation of “half – caste” indigenous Australian children from their mothers finally stopped. The movie Australia raises the issue without ever being heavy handed – it shows it as a part of the way of life in northern Australia in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It is only through our protagonists – the “stuffy” British Lady Sarah Ashley, the outcast “Drover” and the “creamy” half aboriginal boy, Nullah that we really see any protest at all. Yet the issue is constantly there, bitter to the modern palate.  

One of the outstanding aspects of the movie is the backdrop. Filmed on location in Australia, Baz Luhrmann and his team capture some stunning backgrounds, which add a devastating natural beauty, but still carries the harsh reality of living in such a place as Darwin and the Northern Territory in the 1930s and 40s. As the cameras pan out at times, the images are breath taking.

This is not a movie for the faint-hearted. It is a long movie. It is also a movie you have to want to take a chance on. If you do though, I cannot see how anyone could fail to be touched by it, or to enjoy it. It is not a happy movie, or a simple movie. It is, however, a good movie, and one that I, personally, recommend.


1 Response to "Australia – film review"

i went to to see this! and yeh i agree about the backdrop and about little Nullah (cute!)…but i’ve gotta say 1 MAJOR flaw in the film was i kept thinking it was goonna end then it didn’t! the camera kept zooming out into the sky away from the main action and ya thought it was all over…but nooooo there was more. Then more. Then more. annnnnd more. But it’s a good film if ya enjoy a bit of a Pearl Harbor styley film!

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