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Australia 1987
Directed by
Tim Burstall
108 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Criticized at the time of its release for failing to capture D.H. Lawrence's evocation of the Australian landscape and it is true that Burstall is no Antonioni, as a stand-alone effort, with its careful production and costume design and fine performances this rates quite well in the popular "period" film style.

Lawrence spent three months in Australia in 1922 and publish his short semi-autobiographical novel "Kangaroo" the following year. Richard Somers (Colin Friels) and his German-born wife, Harriet (Judy Davis), thinly-veiled portraits of Lawrence and his wife, are hounded out of Britain by self-righteous authorities and arrive in Sydney where the former's reputation as a radical writer gets him involved with both hard-line Left and Right groups opposed to the incumbent State government.

Although Harriet's awareness of "fascism" seems a tad a-chronological one assumes there is at least broad historical validity in the political situation that is sketchily described by Evan Jones's screenplay. If Burstall's film does not satisfy in the bigger picture sense it wins at the other end of what is always a difficult balancing act in films of this kind - the interpersonal drama. Here Judy Davis, rather peculiar German accent notwithstanding, is outstanding, and is well balanced by Friels (her real-life husband), whilst John Walton provides a strong presence as their neighbour.




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