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A (very) youthful Mel Gibson starred in the World War I drama ‘Gillipoli’ in 1971. 

Mr. Movie: More Down Under the radar

Gallipoli (1971) is director Peter Weir's memorial to World War I from Down Under. Mel Gibson is one of the featured actors; this was before he came to America and became rich and famous. The youthful exuberance of the lads on their way to the front plays nicely against what we know waits for them there. For three-fourths of the film, the war seems like a great adventure, a lark. We, and they, are jerked up short by the last reel. This is a splendid film.


An excellent young-woman-growing-up film is My Brilliant Career  (1979). It stars the wonderful Judy Davis as a spunky girl determined to be Somebody. Her treatment in turn-of-the-century Australia is harsh, but she refuses to buckle. We wince, and we cheer for her. 


Phar Lap (1983) is about the great Australian racehorse of the same name. To Australians, he is a legend larger than Secretariat is to us. He died in a mysterious fire in the U.S. in 1933, after whipping all comers. This is a good story with very good racing shots.


Tony Colette has a grand time as the title character in Muriel’s Wedding (1994). Muriel is a socially awkward young woman, ridiculed by her only friends. She dreams of a storybook wedding, which seems most unlikely to happen. Her trip from social hanger-on and wannabe to responsible woman is both humorous and touching. This is a most unusual movie with an unusual story.


Look Both Ways (2005) features an ensemble cast you will not have heard of, with several divergent stories that nicely come together. A young man finds out he has a deadly cancer and on his way home meets a mentally fragile young woman who has just witnessed a train wreck. This accident is a central point of the film, as if affects every member of the cast in very different ways. Toward the end, there is a scene where the engineer who was driving the train shows up at the home of the victim’s family, full of remorse for a terrible thing that is not his fault. He will break your heart. The 2022 American film with the same name is nothing like the Australian and not nearly as good. 


And for a good time, check out The Castle (1997) in which the Kerrigan family happily lives on the edge of Melbourne Airport. The airport wants to expand and take the Kerrigan home. They fight it in court, but their dreadful lawyer’s argument that the taking destroys “the vibe” of the constitution doesn’t work. When all seems lost, they’re befriended by a retired Queen’s Counsel attorney who represents them before the Australian High Court. 


All of the movies in this article are available on DVD. All are for adults.