Sweet Country ★★★

3.0/5.0 = Good

READ CROSSFADER MAGAZINE'S AFI FILM FEST ROUNDUP

There were no shortages of westerns at this year's AFI film festival, but few stood out quite as evocatively as Warwick Thornton's outback melodrama, SWEET COUNTRY; a meditation on race, God, and human cruelty. What starts off as an inarguably pedantic, pedestrian Australian period piece slowly but surely snowballs into something far more nuanced. Misanthropic, bleak, unflinching, but always riveting, SWEET COUNTRY uses tropes commonly associated with the machismo of the western genre, including the lazier, unfavorable one of rape, and manages to flip its narrative on its head near its third act. In a clever reversal of our expectations, SWEET COUNTRY is less a film about justice, and more specifically one of fate. It's something Thornton points towards with countless obtuse glimpses into the future, and really cements by the time the film reaches its show stopping finale. It's a tale of men, their duty to their land, their loved ones, and what happens when injustice drunkenly stumbles to your doorstep. Sam Neill delivers one hell of a commanding performance, and the unique, multi-ethnic backdrop of the Australian outback casts a wonderfully complex tapestry of deceit and unrest. Certainly among AFI fest's most mainstream selections, but one that is sure to leave few viewers unfazed.