I'm going to be honest with you. I used to think that Australian films were a little bit lame. I know, I know, look, it's an admission I'm not proud of. But there you have it. When I was at school and studied Muriel's Wedding as a text for English, I didn't just think that Muriel was terrible, I thought the whole film was! But then I saw films like The Castle, Black Balloon, The Wog Boy and The Dish and realised that I had been very, very wrong about Australian cinema. But I'm sorry to tell you despite this moment of clarity and understanding, my opinion of Muriel's Wedding remained unchanged. I know I've disappointed you but I really do hope you can get past it.
Right about now you might be asking, what is the point of this hurtful introduction Gleeko? Well it'll all make sense by the end of this blog post - so keep reading!
On Friday night I was looking at the movie posters outside the Westgarth Cinema when I paused to consider the vague text printed on the Jasper Jones promo: "A knock at the window, their lives changed forever" the poster informed me. It revealed very little about the plot but I noticed that Toni Collette and Hugo Weaving were in it which meant I had already decided I was going to watch this film. Then, noticing where I had paused and where I was looking, a stranger told me that he had just seen Jasper Jones, that it was very good, and that I too should see it. Well, if the foundations weren't set firm enough, this guy just poured a heap of wet cement over them. The next night, husband and I set ourselves comfortably down at Cinema Nova and watched this little Aussie gem.
Here's what I have to say about this film. Firstly, the stranger I met the night before was right. So now, in fairness to him I'd like to pass on some wet cement to each of you to solidify your need to see this film. It's so Australian - visually, humorously, poetically. And little wonder really, considering it was written by well loved Australian author Craig Silvey.
Secondly, it's important that you understand the beauty in this films progression. It has been likened to To Kill A Mockingbird and I can most definitely see why. The story is told unassumingly. It moves at a reasonably fast pace but you never feel rushed. There is plenty of time to appreciate its telling and disturbing rumblings. It builds and builds and builds but you hardly notice it until you reach the blistering heights of the ending.
Thirdly, the story releases thematic loading on the viewer subtly and truthfully. Think up a theme and it will have made an appearance in this film. In fact, there are so many themes, that you could easily rattle off half a dozen before asking yourself, "is that Hugo Weaving or Sam Neil?" It really does have it all - there's the coming of age thing, the trusting your instincts thing and the formulating your own understanding of the world thing and holding onto that dearly. There's romance, friendship, loyalty and betrayal. Then of course there's guilt, grief and hope. And all along there are crumb trails of racism, sportsmanship, escapism, persecution, and judgment. If you choose to follow these crumbs you will be brought to the very core of the Australian psyche - you will find yourself in a world of humour, the Australian kind. Whether you're earnestly chuckling or recoiling in the lameness of a Dad joke (that's the link back to my hurtful and otherwise pretty pointless intro) there's much humour to be enjoyed in this exquisite film.
There are scenes that are absolutely joyful and there are scenes that seize your heart and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze. This film is biting, it's heartbreaking, it's warm, and it's funny.
I'm not giving it a score or a star rating. I'm not a film critic. But I think you should see it.