Sweet Country
"There is artistry here and an absence of cliche."

The last time anyone talked about an Aussie Western was with The Proposition, scripted by Nick Cave, a brutal piece of outback power play that tore the roots from nostalgia's rose bed and left the language of freedom bleeding in the sand. Now comes another which feels closer to the slave estates of the American South except the landscape is scorched and the minds of the settlers, essentially male with jars of gut fire in their fists and natives learning the ways of Boss White back in the workers' sheds, are marinated in cruelty, full of hatred for the blacks, full of anger for a life that keeps giving pain.

Like an oasis of hope, a man of God (Sam Neill) lives with his aboriginal flock whom he treats with respect, among them Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) and his wife and niece. Harry Marsh (Ewen Leslie) rides over the hill and asks for help with his recently purchased property. Sam and his wife agree to go as an act of charity for what should be a short stay.

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Once you discover Marsh's true character you know where this will lead and soon, too soon, there is a killing and Sam is on the run. At the nearest town, more like a collection of shacks, with a saloon at its centre, Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) organises a motley posse and gives chase. He is ruthless in his pursuit of what he considers justice and like a ferret in a burrow does not contemplate mercy. Cruelty is a weapon and abos are vermin. Fury drives him into the salt flats if necessary, into the eye of the blistering sun.

The plot exposes the violence of frontier life, in this case across Australia's indigenous wasteland, that might appear ruthless in its tenacity and heartless in its execution. You think you have been here before. You think you know. But you don't. There is artistry here and an absence of cliche. The performances are strong. Truth hurts. The blood of Christ bakes in the sacrilegious heat.

Is this God's Own Country?

For Sam once, perhaps. Now in the Northern Territory in the Twenties the worst of the white is a force of destruction.

There is a lesson to be learnt. It is the value of the rule of law, without which humanity is forever corrupted.

Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2018
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Australian frontier drama, told from an Aboriginal perspective.
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Director: Warwick Thornton

Writer: Steven McGregor, David Tranter

Starring: Hamilton Morris, Bryan Brown, San Neill, Matt Day, Ewen Leslie, Tremayne Doolan, Trevon Doolan, Natassia Gorey Furber, Anni Finsterer, Thomas M Wright

Year: 2017

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia

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If you like this, try:

The Proposition