Sweet Country (MA15+)
Rating: 3 / 5
Set in outback Australia after World War I, Sweet Country follows the uneasy relationships between roughneck white station owners and their indigenous staff.
Sam (Hamilton Morris) is a middle-aged Aboriginal farmer who works for one of the few decent characters in the film, preacher and station owner Fred (Sam Neill).
Despite having misgivings, Fred agrees to let Sam and wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey Furber) help out at Harry March’s (Ewen Leslie) station for a couple of days. But it’s not long until there is a major confrontation. Harry stages a violent home invasion at the house where Sam is living and it leads to a death. This starts a chain of catastrophic events, including a manhunt led by local tough-guy policeman Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown).
Fair-minded Judge Taylor (Matt Day) visits the town to investigate the events, and justice appears to be achieved, but sadly, that is not where the film ends. Sweet Country is full of fine acting performances, especially from Neill, Brown and Morris—who shows an impressive dignity and strength of character lacking in most of the white station owners.
Initially, Sweet Country is a shock to the system, but once the viewer adjusts to the tenor of the film, it becomes a gripping story of consequences. Directed by Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah), Sweet Country should alarm us about what happened in Australian history.
The film is violent and expletive-ridden so it’s not for the faint hearted, but sends a powerful message that should shame us for the way we were. May the prejudice and violence that dominates Sweet Country never be repeated in civilised Australian society.