“much more than an Australian history lesson”
“powerful, melancholic western”
White Australians and Aboriginals living under the same roof: this seems possible at the start of the exciting, compelling film Sweet Country. It is 1929 and Sam and his wife Lizzie live and work for a friendly farmer, but are loaned out in good faith to an ex-serviceman who seems not to have one iota of respect for people of another colour. Acting in self-defence, Sam shoots him.
Feeling doomed to lose any court case because he is an Aboriginal, Sam flees into the bush accompanied by Lizzie and in response sergeant Fletcher launches a manhunt. Their journey takes them through a majestic but inhospitable landscape. And inevitably the stunning nature becomes a central feature of the film.
Visually, Sweet Country appears to be a low-key, handsomely shot western. It encourages us to believe that all the whites are baddies and all the Aboriginals are heroes. But no one proves to be entirely good or bad. Everyone is trying to survive in their own way in this harsh, unforgiving world. Director Warwick Thornton (himself an Aboriginal) goes straight to the heart of the matter. Each character has his or her own personal history thanks to soundless fleeting scenes that flash a short way forward or back in time. The story is effectively told and scope is created for reflections on contemporary Australian society in which justice is still often obstructed by mutual distrust.