Ed (Xavier Samuel) is white, Paddy (Clarence John Ryan) is Aboriginal and the shifting social and political climate of Australia in the late 1960s threatens to fracture what was a rock solid friendship. The pressure of growing from boys to men in a complex and segregated world forces them to question their respective positions in life. They will inherit the lives of their fathers ... that is, unless one of them does something to change their paths.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's just the way it is, says Kieran Darcy-Smith's Rick Anderson, as a way of explaining everything. But things are changing, and the way it is, will soon become a thing of the past. Two boys of different colours are best friends, just as their fathers were as they grew up a generation ago. Two families, two houses and two sets of lives that are intertwined, but ones where segregation and discrimination form a tenuous fault line destined to crack. There's a particular rhythm to Peter Carstairs' brooding portrait of a friendship that is inevitably about to change forever. An eclectic music score featuring cello, piano, harp and electric bells plays a key role in this cinematic work, whose images look as though they are textured tapestries. The script is economical and every word seems to count. With its particular sense of time and place, this is an engaging and visceral film that allows us to understand a complex and indefinable moment in time when the world at large makes a shift from its orbit.
Two strong performances from Xavier Samuel and Clarence John Ryan as Ed and Paddy, the two 16 year old boys whose friendship is suddenly confronted by external forces. What do they do together, when there is little to do? They share a cigarette, go to the movies, bounce a ball against a wall or simply stare at the sky. It is 1968 and the world is changing as the first rocket ship launches into space, while closer to home, aboriginal workers are given the right to equal pay with their white counterparts. 'They're twice the trouble and do half the work,' complains the local shopkeeper, but economics prevent the reality of the new laws to be put into practise, causing strain not only on the working relationships, but on the friendships involved. Ed and Paddy's shared passion for boxing gives them a common interest and in the make-shift boxing ring that they put up in the middle of the wheat fields, they practise with Paddy wearing a left glove and Ed wearing the right.
There is a shift to their daily routine when Amelia (Mia Wasikowska) comes to town, when she and Ed share an attraction. Coupled with the strains arising from the new work related laws, when Ed and Paddy face each other in the ring, it is no longer fun, but a bitter conflict and there is something personal at stake. Things will never be the same again and both boys need to face this reality. The hand-held camera work gives an emotional immediacy to this evocative work that is the first project from the Tropfest Feature Program. It's a lovingly made film with a rich undercurrent of passion and emotion, and one that captures a sense of the time and the ensuing emotional conflict.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
September (in the Southern Hemisphere) is spring; new beginnings. That's when Jimmy Sharman's Boxing Troupe turns up in the small Western Australian town where Ed (Xavier Samuel) and his Aboriginal friend Paddy (Clarence John Ryan) live. The 15 year olds have a vague dream about boxing, and even build a ropey ring in the field near Ed's home, where his father struggles to run a farm of some sort. And boxing is finally the way out for Paddy, although not one we get to see. What we see is the lead-up.
The screenplay is a study of two teenagers on the edge of social and personal change, with a racial edge. Australian Rules did it somewhat better, I think. It was economical and dramatic. This slow, meditative film feels as though it's a piece of prose that would have made a more complete short film, say a TV hour or so. It lacks the dynamics to make it engaging, and its lyricism isn't enough to compensate.
Xavier Samuel and Clarence John Ryan are excellent, though, youngsters whose inner lives, their deepest emotions, are repressed and hidden to a large extent from the outside world, even though they can each sense the other's joys and hurts. Indeed, all the cast delivers wonderfully nuanced performances, even in the smallest support roles. The flaws come from the screenplay and direction. Other than respectful festival audiences, I can't imagine who the film is made for.
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CAST: Xavier Samuel, Clarence John Ryan, Mia Wasikowska, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Alice McConnell, Kelton Pell, Lisa Flanagan, Sibylla Budd
PRODUCER: John Polson, Lynda House & Serena Paull
DIRECTOR: Peter Carstairs
SCRIPT: Peter Carstairs, Ant Horn
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jules O'Loughlin
EDITOR: Tim Wellburn, Martin Connor
MUSIC: Roger Mason
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sam Hobbs
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 29, 2007