In Australia, on the brink of World War II, an English aristocrat travels to the faraway continent, where she meets a rough-hewn local and reluctantly agrees to join forces with him to save the land she inherited. Together, they embark upon a transforming journey across hundreds of miles of the world's most beautiful yet unforgiving terrain, only to still face the bombing of the city of Darwin by the Japanese forces that attacked Pearl Harbor.
Like many people, I've been wanting to see this movie since the first moment I saw the previews. I've always had a fascination for Australia (as do a lot of people) and would one day love to visit. Seeing this movie gives us a taste of the incredible history of this beautiful place, and the hold it can have on a person.
Nicole Kidman portrays Lady Sarah Ashley, a near penniless Englishwoman exasperated with her husband for abandoning her by going to Australia to try to make a go of a seemingly barren piece of property called Faraway Downs. She's more likely to believe he's there with a local woman instead of trying to make a success of this business, so she decides she's had enough with his nonsense and is going down there and insist he sell the property.
Only when she goes down there, she finds out her husband is dead, and that the the manager of the property has been stealing the best of the cattle for local land baron King Carney. She immediately fires him, though she's not sure why since she'd never intended to stay there in the first place. But there are 1500 head of cattle that need to be driven to Darwin, and the Aborigine people on her land to consider, especially one little boy, Nullah, whose father is a white man who doesn't acknowledge him at all. Sarah, who has no children of her own, finds herself looking after the child when he loses his own mother, and is very protective when she finds out that bi-racial children such as Nullah are taken from their families to be send to Mission Island, and Nullah is constantly in danger of this and must hide when the authorities show up.
Look at that little face! (Brandon Walters as Nullah)
As you can imagine, Lady Sarah and Drover (Hugh Jackman) butt heads with her being so proper and him being, well, not so proper, but as they get to know each other as they drive the cattle to Darwin, and see they are not so different as they believed, they begin to fall in love. Sarah proves to be as strong and determined as any man when they set out on their cattle run, and at times the danger is so great that some don't survive. At one point, they've gone days without water and when they come upon a river, it's been poisoned. Drover is sure they're about to die but Nullah's grandfather, King George, an Aborigine man, lead them to a source. Now they just need to make it in time to Darwin or risk losing everything...
"Australia" is a wonderful and gritty film. I can imagine that the land would definitely grab a hold of one's soul and not let go - beautiful, unforgiving, mysterious, it is a place that you can't easily forget. I was interested in the history of the Aborigines, an indigenous people who are considered to be the first people on the continent of Australia. Nullah is only half-Aborigine, and doesn't completely fit in either world, though he seems to gravitate toward the teachings of his maternal grandfather, King George. In fact at one point Nullah is eager to go on a walkabout, which is some type of rite of passage for Australian Aborigines nearing adolescence, and this breaks Sarah's heart as she doesn't want to lose him. I could imagine as a woman how difficult this must have been since she thought of Nullah as her own. And Nullah, being an adventurous young boy, was so looking forward to the journey that you could see the excitement radiating from him. It's any mother's worst fear.
The romance between Sarah and Drover is lovely and they are very happy together running the cattle station and caring for Nullah for two years before they have a huge fight, both too stubborn and full of pride to admit they're wrong. While I liked Nicole's strong portrayal of Sarah, it's really Hugh's Drover that captures my attention between the two of them. He's definitely the type of manly man I gravitate towards, and he's so comfortable in his own skin that it's an incredibly attractive quality to watch. As Drover, he's so unapologetic about the way he lives his life, unwilling to change just because of his love for Sarah. Yet at the same time, when he thinks Nullah might be dead, you see a man who cares deeply for this little boy, and realizes that he thinks of him like his own son. Nothing gets to me more than a man who is vulnerable to a child, and if I wasn't already totally smitten with the character, that would have sealed the deal right then and there.
Little Brandon Walters as Nullah totally stole my heart. Oh I just wanted to grab him off the screen and give him a big ole hug. He was just so adorable, with those big brown eyes and that smile that lights up the world. His character is integral to the movie, a sort of bridge between the white and the Aboriginal world, between the prejudiced and the enlightened. He's had to grow up fast for his age, but there's still that magic and wonder of a child inside of him. I admit, I loved his character the most.
I laughed through this movie, and I cried more than I can ever remember doing, but mostly they were happy tears. It was just a fabulous production, running almost 3 hours long, so don't drink anything too soon beforehand. I think it's definitely worth seeing in the theatre to get a sense of the vastness of the land; the imagery of it is simply amazing. It's romantic, stunning, emotional - essentially the visual equivalent of an epic romance novel. And you can bet this movie is definitely one I'll be buying when it comes out.
Rating: ***** out of *****