Bran Nue Dae

Bran Nue Dae


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

If exuberance was all it took to win over audiences then Bran Nue Dae would have them queuing round the block. There is absolutely no doubting the commitment of all concerned to this tongue-in-cheek Sixties-set drama. But for all its infectious feel-good vibe, Rachel Perkins' film is still a seriously flawed enterprise.

Willie is a young aborigine who is bundled off by his mum to a Catholic boarding school, where she hopes he will eventually join the priesthood. Willie's not too keen on any of this, not least because leaving his home town of Broome will also mean leaving behind the prospect of romance with local girl Rosie. When he gets to the school things go from bad to worse and a late-night tuckshop raid sees him flee the premises. Desperate to get back to Broome, he finds himself on a bizarre roadtrip with a couple of hippies in a van and elderly down-and-out Uncle Tadpole, while being chased by the school's doctrinarian priest headmaster.

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The film is based on a play from 1989 and the source material lacks the depth to support this kind of surreal walkabout adventure. On stage, energetic performances can overcome slight characterisation and shallow plotting but onscreen, the wafer-thin characters and lack of narrative thrust are exposed. This isn't helped by the fact that the performances are patchy. Rocky McKenzie fails to muster the acting clout needed to really sell the part of Willie and, with the exception of Geoffrey Rush's over-the-top performance as the puritanical school head, most of the other cast members pale in comparison to Ernie Dingo, who masterfully brings Tadpole, the character he first played on stage, to life.

There's no doubt that a satirical point about the state of Australia and its treatment of the indigenous populace is being made - epitomised in a recurring song containing the lines: "There's nothing I would rather be than to be an aborigine and watch you take my precious land away." But clever lyrics are not sufficient to sell the musical numbers, which suffer from incredibly bad lip-synching and some overblown routines. Occasionally funny, but overall this lacks panache.

Reviewed on: 07 Mar 2010
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Bran Nue Dae packshot
A boy runs away from boarding school and goes on a surreal - and musical-number filled - roadtrip across Australia.
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Director: Rachel Perkins

Writer: Reg Cribb, Rachel Perkins, Jimmy Chi, Kuckles, Patrick Duttoo Bin Amat, Michael Manolis Mavromatis, Stephen Pigram

Starring: Rocky McKenzie, Jessica Mauboy, Geoffrey Rush, Ernie Dingo

Year: 2009

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: Australia

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