Charlie's Country

Charlie's Country ★★★★½

Part of A Film A Day
Part of Essential Films To Watch

"I was born in the bush, they didn't find me in the bush."

Holy shit. I'm still trying to decide whether Charlie's Country or Whiplash was my favourite of the festival. I think what made this film so enjoyable for me was that I wasn't expecting anything from it. I had heard that it was a good film, and though it even won Best Actor at Cannes, I wasn't particularly interested. The story of a native, aboriginal man living in the Australian outback isn't usually a film I would love. But, Charlie's Country is definitely about more than the majority of it's synopsis' profess.

On the surface, Charlie's Country is about a marginalized indigenous man, who fears the hard-hitting effects of the cultural assimilation of his community after the installation of a police station. And though Charlie hasn't especially fond of his culture in the past (or so it seems that way), with this new change in the community, Charlie aims to rebel against the government and live "the old way" as he puts it.

And though that premise sounds interesting, Charlie's Country is about so much more than that. It paints us a portrait of a man who is, essentially, an aimless wanderer. It shows us that at any age, you can still be confused about the direction you want your life to go towards. As for Charlie, he is just as confused as an 18 year old trying to choose a career path. And it does all this in a rather light-hearted, inspirational tone. Charlie's Country shows that even if you don't achieve your goal, what's important is that you tried.

At the centre of these important themes, and the gorgeous cinematography is the amazing, tender, soulful performance from David Gulpilil, perhaps the greatest (and most well known) indigenous actor of all time. But Charlie's Country is surely the great performance of his career. The performance he gives is moving, deeply saddening and truly represents the despair of the effects of assimilation upon indigenous peoples. And why does it seem so easy for him to play this role? Because he actually lives this film. It's almost like a documentary, as Rolf de Heer captures David Gulpilil in a rather familiar situation. And that's why the performance seems so natural, and the emotions so raw.

Charlie's Country is one of the best I saw at CIFF, and surely one of my favourites of the year. It features a magnificent performance from a great actor, and it presents a story that's not only inspirational, but powerful as well. The cinematography is amongst some of the best I've seen in any film, and the themes are amazingly picked. Charlie's Country is definitely one that everyone needs to experience.