- Colin Fraser
FOUR AND A HALF STARS A posse is formed when an indigenous man kills a white, colonial farmer.
Bryan Brown, Sam Neill
PERIOD DRAMA #SWEETCOUNTRY
Why Australia doesn’t make more westerns remains a mystery. Especially when the stories can be as stunningly good as Warwick Thornton’s SWEET COUNTRY, a died-in-the-wool settler’s yarn of searing injustice if ever there was. Set near an early outback town, a farmer is killed after he rapes the wife of an indigenous worker. The local authority (Bryan Brown) sets about balancing the scales of colonial justice much to the horror of a god-fearing local (Sam Neill) in whose employ is the chief suspect.
Part domestic-drama, part journey-into-the-unknown, SWEET COUNTRY is also a reflection on country past and present - and one that comes up questioning our future as much as our past. Told in the rhythms of a classic western, Thornton also imbues the film with an Australian resonance that makes for a much darker, more personal, more resonant experience.
The penultimate courtroom scene with Judge Matt Day presiding (a grossly under-utilised talent it must be noted) distills the essence of Thornton’s argument in one very uncomfortable scene. Neil’s impassioned closing curse seals the deal. Add the startling cinematography of Dylan River and Thornton as well, plus the surprisingly nuanced performances of Brown, Neill and Day, SWEET COUNTRY offers a beautiful, poignant if damming indictment on Australia then and now. It’s not too much to say that this is an instant classic.