Despite the authentic feel of rural Australia in the 1970s, Aaron Wilson’s exploration of masculinity and Australian identity is a rather flat and depressing journey.
Filmed in Tocumwal (I gave it an extra half star just for that), it’s interesting to see how timeless a depiction of a 70s rural community seems. You can tell it’s the 70s because of the cars and the racism against Italians, and the unsubtle news bulletins playing in the back ground – Vietnam war (tick), strikes (tick), women’s liberation (tick) – but without that, it could be anytime in the last 40 years.
Leo (Mark Leonard Winter) comes home from work to find his wife has gone with only a note saying the kids are with a neighbour. He is bereft, sleep-walking through the day, feeding the kids baked beans every night and unable to drag himself from an overwhelming sense of sorrow. He visits his dad Jim (Robert Menzies) who lives a solitary life on his farm and you get the feeling that Leo has not had a good role model when it comes to being a parent.
Rather than learn how to cook and engage with his children, he employs the sister of Italian co-worker Tony (Fabio Motta) – Maria (Silvia Colloca) – to do it for him. She is like an Italian Nigella, instantly making his home a warm and nurturing place. She is also, we realise after a while, the one narrating the story and so can fill in all the details that we can’t discern otherwise.
And that’s pretty much it. Maybe Leo learns something, it’s not clear. His dad Jim is something of a stereotype – war-damaged taciturn farmer – and we don’t really find out much about him, just that he is good at harvesting and probably isn’t a bad bloke. I’m not sure what Wilson was trying to say, that Leo was part of a lost generation perhaps or that fatherhood is not an innate quality. Whatever the intentions, I was left unmoved and unenlightened.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.