Charlie's Country

Charlie's Country ★★★½

This is a movie with a five star central performance and a mostly five star screenplay and mostly five star direction that only suffers from some unevenness in regards to subtlety. For all of the wonderfully understated, thoughtful moments that are simply observing Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil's face--a face which itself tells almost as much story as one could possibly need--there are others that are punctuated with an overbearing soundtrack that bullies the viewer into feeling something that most anyone with eyeballs and a soul would be feeling anyway. Can we just agree as a species to shelve the generic melancholy piano sound until we've sufficiently forgotten how corny it is? There are moments in the sound design, otherwise, that are transcendentally beautiful. As the aged "Charlie" is being helicoptered to a hospital the sound of the whirring rotor blades gives way to the natural sounds of the bush as the camera moves from Charlie's pensive, sad face to the view outside the helicopter of the motherland from which he is forcefully withheld.

Minor complaints aside, this is a (mostly) subtle burning condemnation of colonialism that doubles as a classic triumph of the spirit over adversity story with a structure and grace that set it apart from the kind of soft soap sap we usually get from Hollywood produced stories of a similar ilk. I just wish it was more consistent with the light touch, because when it comes down hard it does start to resemble the kind of pablum that old white liberals go to see to feel good about themselves (for my Seattle people: the kind of movies that played every other week at the Seven Gables). Thankfully, those missteps are few and far between.

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