Certificate - 15
Run Time - 101 minutes
Genre - Romantic Drama
Country - Australia
Subtitled - Wirpiri dialect
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Films from Australia are often interesting and quirky affairs, this one no different, a love story like no other and one of very few words. As Australia's official entry to the 2010 Academy Awards it was in the Foreign Language category, the film set in the countries aboriginal communities and language, here the mysterious tongue of Wirpiri. The Aboriginal tribes speak between six to eight languages and the eighth is always English, unless it's the off-licence. It was the Brits, after all, that bought G-Day' and corks on hats to Australia.
My experience of Abo's in Australia was one of hard drinking, glue sniffing, and general layabouts that are totally dependent on state handouts and charity, as well as that booze. The film doesn't really offer any other arguments, other than they are sniffing petrol here and spend all day painting those iconic dreamtime paintings, their only positive cliché. In fact one of the main characters and the brother of director Warwick Thornton, Gonzo played by Scott Thornton, was an alcoholic going into casting and, although he managed to stay sober during the seven week shoot, was an alcoholic again not two days after the final scenes were shot.
Rowan McNamara ... Samson
Marissa Gibson ... Delilah
Mitjili Napanangka Gibson ... Nana
Scott Thornton ... Gonzo
Matthew Gibson ... Samson's Brother
Peter Bartlett ... Store Manager
Audrey Martin ... Payback Auntie
Fiona Gibson ... Payback Aunty
14-year-old Samson (Rowan McNamara) lives in Australia's brutal outback in a small desolate community. His days are very dull and repetitive, the boredom broken only by sniffing gasoline, following a girl called Delilah (Marissa Gibson) around town and woken every morning by his brother-in-law, who insists on practicing easy listening tunes with his band on Samson's porch, very badly.
14-year-old Delilah has responsibilities and so a more structured day ahead, her job to look after her slightly senile Nan (Mitjili Napanangka Gibson) and the pair spending all day creating aboriginal art, which is purchased dirt cheap by traders and sold for thousands of dollars in Alice Springs by the same rich people that would cross the road if an Aboriginal came anywhere near them.
It becomes clear there is an attraction between the two and if they are honest, they the only show in town, aboriginal courting routines very basic. When Nana dies and Delilah is unfairly blamed for neglect by the elders (who beat her viciously with sticks for it) and Samson smashes up the bands instruments and then he hits his brother-in-law (Mathew Gibson) on lead guitar, again viciously with a stick, its best if they skip town, stealing the community 'yute' (utility truck) to scarper to Alice Springs.
There the life is alien where, sleeping rough, they meet a bum called Gonzo (Scot Thornton) under a road bridge, who helps them out with food and rambling thoughts, the films comic turn. But to survive they will have to have their wits about them and look out for each other.
As you would expect it swept the boards at the Australian Oscars, a film that finally asks white Australia to confront its prejudices and so humanise black Aboriginal Australia, doing a healthy $8 million Aussie dollars at home, big money for a subtitled film there. Sprawling movies like 'Australia' are what the Aussies want to see in their multiplexes, grand frontier adventures that show a stunning but often brutal land tamed by white folks and so belongs to the likes of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and the Mel Gibson. But this film chooses not to hide in that cliché and that allows the director to explore the modern day Aboriginal in the scorched outback that he is born of, a desolate and rather boring existence at the spiritual heart of the country.
Giving Aboriginal Australia a voice in film has never really happened Down Under and so it's nice to see it happen here, an honest account too. It's been all too easy for Aussies in previous movies to pass the blame on to the British colonialist for the resettlement program and so responsible for all Aboriginal ills. But the truth is a lot of Aborigines reject city life and want to live nomadic lives and so no real surprise they suffer the social ills they do, the reason why the British dragged them out of the bush and into the civilised cities in the first place. You cant get around the fact white Australians are uncomfortable being around aboriginals and it took Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Olympics to even get them on the countries social conscious, as I said, that traditional Aboriginal art the only other trace that they matter.
This film uses love to humanise our main protagonists, often a simple touch or gesture that ignites our most sort after emotional state. It's quite a sweet love story too, Samson earning Delilah's respect by an act of kindness and then Delilah taking care of him in return, what love is really about, few words needed to explain that. If you think back to how you met your other half I bet it's more to do with what you have in common and a gesture made through that than some sort of fast talking pub banter after a few pints. The Samson & Delilah bible story is only loosely tasted here as hair cutting in the aboriginal community signifies the passing to the dream world of loved ones.
It is subtitled although hardly any words are spoken throughout so don't let that put you off, a film of deliberately few words, the physical over verbal expressing their love for each other. It's quite extraordinary and unique that way and will really appeal to those film fans who love the visual and nuance of film. For others watching it means a very slow start and so may get bored and so miss the point that the boredom is the film and why they fall for each other, love always an escape from reality. Let's face it; most of our day is centred on our emotions towards our partner and what not to do to upset them, all consuming for some and not worth the hassle for others.
But this movie is worth the hassle and a genuine love story, the more articulate viewer grasping just how important love is in less sophisticated societies and why they get married so young. It's not a romance to make you cry and the film is littered with dry humour that will cleverly make you laugh at the bits you shouldn't. It also makes the people of this film less invisible, perhaps its greatest message.
= = = Critics = = =
The New Yorker - "How do you know you're looking at a pretty good piece of filmmaking? When the director and actors can make you care about the central characters even though they exchange almost no dialogue"
Empire Magazine - "Tender and beautifully acted, it's a unflinchingly bleak glimpse of life on Australia's margins"
The Sun -"The film may be hard as hell to watch, but it's even harder to look away from".
Moving Pictures Magazine -"Thornton isn't concerned about filling in the lines, requiring viewers to make the connections for themselves. The film is all the more engaging for it"
= = = Ratings = = =
Imdb.com - 7.0 /10.0 (1,454 votes)
Metacritic.com - 71% critic's approval rating (68% users)
Rottentomatos.com - 96% critic's approval rating (75% users)
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