Review: Charlie’s Country

Director Rolf de Heer (no longer ‘Adelaide’s own’ since his relocation to Tasmania) co-wrote this, his follow-up to 2012’s The King Is Dead!, with David Gulpilil, in their third collaboration after The Tracker and the wonderful Ten Canoes.

Director Rolf de Heer (no longer ‘Adelaide’s own’ since his relocation to Tasmania) co-wrote this, his follow-up to 2012’s The King Is Dead!, with David Gulpilil, in their third collaboration after The Tracker and the wonderful Ten Canoes. And while there are some problems here, including a final act that curiously doesn’t know where to finish, this is obviously constructed as a moving tribute to Gulpilil, who seems quite frail at times, but nevertheless delivers a wonderfully subtle performance of great emotion and cheeky humour. In a remote community, Charlie is finding that since the ‘intervention’ his life has become more difficult, with more of a police presence and stricter enforcement of rules, especially those pertaining to alcohol and drugs. He sometimes helps officer Luke (Luke Ford) track criminals, but mostly objects to whitefella laws. When his gun and spear are confiscated, meaning that he can no longer hunt, he journeys deep into the bush and is alone in nature in a long, lyrical sequence. Here he salutes lost friends, catches, cooks and praises a barramundi, and laughingly shouts to the trees that this is his land, in scenes that feature Gulpilil at his very best. But Charlie’s health is failing and soon he’s forced to take a trip that sets into play a last half-hour that doesn’t quite click. While several of de Heer’s previous players (including King’s Bojana Novakovic and The Tracker’s Gary Sweet) turn up in small roles here, this is entirely Gulpilil’s show, and even in the simplest, quietest moments he’s riveting. It’s one of the key performances in any of de Heer’s films and, basically, magnificent. Rated M. Opens on July 17  

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