Gotta have soul – The Sapphires

The Sapphires - Official Poster - from IMPawards.com

The Sapphires – Official Poster – from IMPawards.com

The Sapphires (2012)

Director: Wayne Blair
Writers: Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson
Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy

There is always a little part of me that tends to cringe at Aussie humour. It’s something about it being a little bit corny and overdone that I find groan-worthy. It is something that I’ve been discovering has been shaken out of Australian films little bit by little bit over the years and it has now hit the right tone in most Australian films that I’ve seen over the last couple of years. I think it’s also a better quality of all aspects of film making as well which has begun to give Aussie films a real chance of succeeding in other countries as well as at home. The Sapphires is a perfect example of the quality films that Australia is producing.

Based on a true story, The Sapphires follows the story of a group of Australian indigenous women with talented voices and a passion to use them. It is set during the Vietnam war, which is not a time period I know much about, apart from the funky music and cute fashion, oh and Forrest Gump. The story between the women is heartbreaking and endearing all at the same time. It shows the intricate difficulties of racism in Australia in the 50s and 60s and how it affected all people involved, not just Aboriginals nor just white people. I found that this point was handled incredibly well. It balanced the sensitivity with the truth and harshness of racism and made the world of Australia in the 1960s really come alive with a unique view from the point of view of indigenous Australians.

The highlight of the film for me had to be the relationship between Deborah Mailman’s character of Gale and Chris O’Dowd’s beautiful and hilarious portrayal of Dave. The arc of their story has a unique and wonderful twist to it and to watch it unravel on screen is simply delightful. You really feel for all the women in this film, from the women in the Sapphires to their mum, aunt, cousin, etc, there is a grace and sharpness to the shape of the relationships between the women. It is this that gripped me through the film, I was pulled in through the comedy and emotional take on the women and the battles they faced in their lives. The strength of these women is showcased in a variety of ways and it was fantastic to see strength in women displayed in these ways as it really illuminated the different ways femininity can be expressed.

Chris O’Dowd provided a wonderful lightness and humour to the film and really bound the film to an international grounding, as well as the link with the Americans in Vietnam. I really do hope this film is accepted by an international audience.

The only complaint I have about this film is the one or two times when that old Aussie cringe-worthy humour and corniness came through the cracks, but I was able to overlook this because of the strength of the rest of the film. Go and see it if you get the chance. It’s made me fall in love with Soul music all over again.

The Beauty of the Inner City Life – Not Suitable For Children

Not Suitable For Children (2012)

Director: Peter Templeman
Writers: Michael Lucas (story), Peter Templeman (story), and Michael Lucas (screenplay)
Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Bojana Novakovic and Laura Brent

I’m not usually a watcher of Australian films because I cringe at either the over-done humour or overwhelming drama. I saw Not Suitable For Children as an audience testing session when it was just about to be released and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and the reception of others in the audience. For one thing it is a film set in a place I know well and a culture that I am partial to. The film traces the story of three friends who live in the inner city suburb of Newtown in Sydney, Australia. The main character, Jonah (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood, Griff The Invisible), is presented with the end of his ability to procreate and decides he will go to any ends to secure an offspring of his own before his time runs out.

This film is incredibly funny, engaging, and genuine film which balances the unique drama of Australian culture and its humour. This film is the closest thing to a real life in this particular culture that I have seen and it is uncanny how beautiful this creation is. Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook (Stevie), and Ryan Corr (Gus) give incredibly compelling performances that make each of the characters absorbing. The friendship between these three characters is both funny and moving. It provides the grounding for the narrative and the complexity to the characters as they develop and interact with one another. There is an underlying truth and reality to this story which makes this film so wonderfully watchable.

This Australian film is unlike any other film I’ve seen and with good reason. It’s crafted with such delicacy and devotion to tell a story that hasn’t really been told before, and a story which touches on a subject that can both resonate for men and women. It tells the story of one of our base instincts, to reproduce, and the difficulties facing both men and women in our society. The idea of having children and raising them when our culture tells us both that we should and shouldn’t do such a thing, that it both takes away our independent lives and gives us “the greatest gift of life”, is a persuasive foundation for a story. The entire production of Not Suitable For Children has come together to produce a fantastic film that will speak to a lot of people across our country, and hopefully the world. I am really hoping this film does well as it is a genuinely fantastic viewing experience and a story that deserves to be told so wonderfully.

I totally recommend you see this film, even/especially if you don’t usually like Australian films, I would give it a real go because you will end up falling in love with these characters and both laughing and lamenting your way through the journey and grief that they experience together. Top points go to Ryan Corr for being the third wheel in this story as well and his incredible performance as Gus, he is a true champion of the inner city Sydney life and has impeccable comedic timing. Sarah Snook and Ryan Kwanten also provide genuinely wonderful characters and especially Sarah’s transformation through the film is inspired and inspiring. Go and enjoy a wonderful Australian film!