Sweet Country

Sweet Country
Sweet Country
Directed by Warwick Thornton
Starring Hamilton Morris, Sam Neill, Thomas M. Wright, Bryan Brown and Ewan Leslie
In UK Cinemas March 9th, 2018

by Gemsy

In a country that’s anything but sweet, a manhunt is underway. Men pit themselves against the blistering heat of the desert with the sole aim of bringing a wanted murderer to righteous justice.

It doesn’t matter that the ‘guilty’ party, Sam Kelly, killed the man reluctantly and solely in self-defence. Nor that the ‘victim’, Harry March, a racist veteran prone to violence and psychotic rages, had already shot at Sam and his wife multiple times while screaming from outside the door of a shack that presented no means of non-confrontational escape. Nor, finally, that the reason he came across the couple at all was that that he was chasing a boy recently escaped from his imprisonment.

What matters is that Sam Kelly is an aborigine and Harry March a white man. And that this is central Australia in 1929.
Set in a town in the remote outback of Alice Springs during a time of strained inter-racial relationships, Sweet Country is a new and refreshing take on the traditional western.

Instantly striking is the lack of an emotive musical score. Viewers are instead immersed in sounds of the Australian outback, be that the gentle humming of the cicadas or the parched sigh of dust-laden winds, lending a raw reality to the period piece. Also notable is the absence of the simplistic stereotypes and caricatures that usually dominate the genre. The underdogs aren’t all honourable victims, few are entirely virtuous, none – even Harry March – are truly monsters. Each actor gives a powerful performance, giving an immersive experience that avoids sentiment and feels genuine.

All these elements come together to bring truth to a stripped-back and elegant portrayal of aboriginal slavery and hardship in a film that could easily have lost itself to sensationalism.

Visceral and intelligent. Beautiful and hostile. Unhurried yet unbearably tense. Sweet Country is a dark, gripping and powerful tale. A masterpiece in cinema well deserving of the awards already under its belt.


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