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Review: Charlie’s Country

The film Charlie’s Country is one of those rare treats where the lead actor is a revelation. David Gulpilil lights up the screen each and every time he appears as Charlie in this delightful film by Rolf de Heer.

Perhaps the only issue with the movie is that it really is Charlie’s Country. The film lags at times that Gulpilil does not appear on screen.

The film, about an Aboriginal in Australia perhaps belabours some of its scenes, (overhead shots of prison food being ladled into bowls roughly feels like an unholy blend of Steve McQueen and Wes Anderson). But the presence of Gulpilil, basing elements on his real life feel inspired, and a treat to behold. Almost everything Charlie says is hilarious, (surprising in what could have been a joyless film), and the scenes where he interacts with the other actors make them stronger. This is especially true with Policeman Luke (Luke Ford), a Chris Hemsworth-soundalike, who works in part because of a bit of banter between the two at the start of the film.

The film often meanders, but in the best ways possible, showcasing the struggles that Charlie undergoes, but never demanding our sympathies. Gulpilil makes us earn the respect, as he is often fallible, like in a middle section of the film where he succumbs too heavily on “grog” and threatens to derail all of the progress that he has made to that point. These scenes feels troubling in that they are great undoings, and it is evident that Charlie’s troubles are not entirely to be blamed on others. There is a sense of an ethical audit that an audience member must take stock of his or her own actions immediately after the screening.

Don’t expect many big moments in Charlie’s Country which works the film’s advantage. The joy that comes from small interchanges between Charlie and those around him make for an uplifting experience. Though there is a bit of moralizing, this is a country that’s worth celebrating.

[star v=35]