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Australia 1981
Directed by
Igor Auzins
134 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

We Of The Never Never

This adaptation of the classic autobiographical novel by Mrs Aeneas Gunn (Angela Punch McGregor) about a 19th century pioneering woman in the Top End who leaves the civilized society of Melbourne to face isolation and cultural estrangement (from, on the one-hand, an all male white society and, on the other, Aboriginal society) as she helps her husband (Arthur Dignam) manage an Outback cattle station has much to recommend it albeit as a rather romanticized picture of turn-of-the-century white settlement of Australia.

Backed by Philip Adams, who had been crucial in establishing the quality end of the Australian film renaissance of the 1970s and Kerry Packer, who owned the Nine Network, the film mixes period style with the stereotypical characterisations and the schematic oppositions of the teledrama. Auzins, whose work had mainly been in television, has a liking for mobile camerawork and combined with the impressive wide-screen photography by Gary Hansen the film looks splendid with evidently much effort having gone into creating an authentic-looking production.

Unfortunately Auzins is not so successful on credible dramatic engagement and is over-reliant on sentimental effects, his work often suggesting a kind of Antipodean John Ford. This is not helped by the script by Peter Schreck which tends to be overly didactic on issues of Aboriginal versus Western world-views and the role of women in Victorian society (Mrs Gunn’s book used to be a standard text in Australian schools). The always wooden Dignam and the overly decorous McGregor are not forceful presences either on their own or with each other and overall there is a general blandness of tone that is rarely broken and which makes the film feel overlong, particularly in its latter stages.

By today's standards We Of The Never Never is too soft-pedalling but as a nostalgia piece it serves its purpose.

DVD Extras: A solid suite of extras includes an interview featurette with Igor Auzins, co-producer John B. Murray, composer Peter Best and Angela Punch McGregor and Arthur Dignam; a 1974 documentary on the 1940 and 1942 ethnological expeditions of C.P.Mountford; the theatrical trailer and a photo montage as well as the soundtrack to the film.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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