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Walkabout from 1971 tells an Outback adventure tale.

Mr. Movie: Down under the radar

For whatever reasons, Australian movies don’t do much business here. Our loss. Fortunately, lots of excellent Aussie flicks are available for home viewing. 


The Dry (2020) is a whip-smart Australian murder mystery. Eric Bana stars as Aaron Falk, a federal agent returning to his hometown for the funeral of a friend. The deceased friend is believed to have died in a murder-suicide action, killing his wife and child and himself. The friend’s parents believe their son was innocent and ask Aaron to stay in town and look into it. It turns out that Aaron had left town under a cloud. Most townspeople believe he was responsible for the death of his then-girlfriend Ellie. The word “Grant” turns out to be a major clue. That’s all I’ll give.


Walkabout (1971) is a weird, beautiful masterpiece. A teen-age girl (Jenny Agutter) and her younger brother are left on their own in the Outback by their demented father. They are saved by an aborigine boy who soon falls in love with the girl. The contrast between the two cultures is constant and holds our interest. There is danger and humor aplenty. When it is over, none of them will ever be the same. We might not, either. In a real sense, this great movie is a capsule version of Australia. 


Breaker Morant (1980) introduced Aussie super-star Bryan Brown to Americans. It is based upon a true story of three soldiers in the Boer War accused of cowardice in a trumped-up charge to further Great Britain's political requirements. Remindful, and as good as, Paths of Glory.


Strictly Ballroom (1993) is a world of fun. It is the story of people who take ballroom dancing seriously. When the handsome lead loses his beautiful partner just before the big contest, he has to make do with a klutzy Plain Jane. Of course, we all madly pull for her. The swishy contest director is a hoot, and the dancing and the gags are a joy. 


Proof (1992) is almost impossible to describe. I saw this when it came out and breathlessly waited 12 years for it to come out on DVD, eager to see if it’s as good as I remembered. It is. Hugo Weaving is a blind man who takes pictures, then asks others to verify what is in the picture. An incredibly young Russell Crowe becomes his friend and verifier. I can’t give away much more, but I assure you this is a really good one. 


They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) is full of both good intentions and Hell. In the last century, the Australian government decided it would be a good idea to force Aboriginal children to go to state boarding schools. Actually, they were kidnapped by the police and shanghaied to the schools, hundreds of miles from their homes and families. This is the story of two little girls who wanted to go home. Kenneth Branagh is the only notable actor. You will never forget this incredible film.


All of the movies in this column are available on DVD. Strictly Ballroom is fine for 8 and up. The rest are for adults.