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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, July 31, 2014 - Edition No 908 

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NIM'S ISLAND

SYNOPSIS:
Nim (Abigail Breslin) lives an isolated life on a remote island with her widowed scientist father (Gerard Butler), her animal friends - lizards, sea lions, a pelican - and favourite fictional literary hero Alex Rover. Alex's creator Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster) also leads an isolated life, but a totally different one, having locked herself away in her city apartment. When Nim's island is threatened with the arrival of a buccaneer-themed cruise ship, she reaches out to her hero for help, forcing the agoraphobic Alexandra to venture nervously into the world.

Review by Louise Keller:
Fantasy and reality collide when a fiction writer and a scientist, both escaping from the world, are forced to take control of their destiny. The catalyst is Abigail Breslin's Nim, to whom both are her heroes. Just like the rope that catapults Nim through the trees of her tropical island home, we are uplifted into an idyllic, sun-drenched world, in which a sea-lion, bearded dragon lizard and pelican are the 11 year's old's confidantes while storybooks act as passport for her fertile imagination. Based on Wendy Orr's children's novel, Nim's Island is the perfect family film, a congenial, heart-warming story whose endearing characters are a pleasure to join, as they journey to find the hero within.

It is easy to be envious of Nim's carefree existence as she shimmies up palm trees, dances with her sea-lion Selkie and is transported through storybooks to exotic destinations with her fiction-hero Alex Rover. It is no coincidence that Alex bears the face of her real-life hero - her scientist father Jack (Gerard Butler), whose passion, since the death of his wife, is simply and wholly, plankton. A world away, in rain-drenched San Francisco, Jodie Foster's agoraphobic fiction writer Alex obsessively smothers her hands with hand sanitiser as she sits at the keyboard, waiting for inspiration. Her confidante is considerably more bizarre than Nim's animal friends; her only ally is her fictional namesake who tells her 'Courage has to be learned and re-learned; be the hero of your own life story, for once.' It takes as much courage for Alex to open her front door as it does for fearless Nim to climb the sheer heights of the island's volcano. It is fear and courage that brings them together; while Nim fears for her father lost at sea, Alex struggles to cope, boarding taxis, planes, helicopters and boats, as she responds to the little girl's plea for help.

Directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett get the film's tone just right, with a nice mix of comedy and pathos. Foster is a hoot as her Alex faces the rigours of airport security, the dreaded 'middle' seat and motion sickness, while Breslin (who basically talks to herself and her animals throughout the film) is a breath of fresh air as the wide-eyed protagonist, who concocts and executes a delicious plan in which flying lizards are used to bombard fat (Brisbane) tourists. The climax is handled with great sensitivity, leaving us not only with a lump in our throat, but uplifted by this delightful tale.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its spirit of fantasy and adventure, Nim's Island is targeting the 8 - 12 year old girls who will place themselves centre stage of this charming and thrilling story, where the worlds of a writer's imagination and her reader's imagination fuse into a rollicking good time.

Abigail Bresnan does a splendid job as the plucky heroine who is left alone when her scientist father goes missing during a storm at sea. She is able to deliver even some rather lame lines with conviction and her feelings all register on her cute face. Jodie Foster pumps up the acting volume for her role, believing she needs to match the oversize boots of the fantasy, but she is nevertheless entertaining as the challenged writer who sets out, reluctantly, to help Nim, only to have Nim doing the rescuing.

Gerard Butler gets the fun part - parts, actually, as both dad Jack and as imaginary adventurer Alex Rover, who materialises to his creator to egg her on - and sometimes cajole or berate her. The device works a treat, but of course it requires us to enter into a pact with the film that we will not apply grown up, real world values to any of the material. This includes the fabulously satirised cruise ship passengers, all loud, overweight and overbearing. One admits to being from Brisbane.

The small Pacific island home where Nim and Jack live is so wonderfully designed I am ready to move in tomorrow; it even has its own sound proofed generator, and fast broadband connection.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

NIM'S ISLAND (PG)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler, Rhonda Doyle, Peter Callan, Michael Carman

PRODUCER: Paula Mazur

DIRECTOR: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin

SCRIPT: Joseph Kwong, Paula Mazur, Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stuart Dryburgh

EDITOR: Stuart Levy

MUSIC: Patrick Doyle

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barry Robison

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 3, 2008 (Melbourne, Brisbane); April 10, 2008 (Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Canberra)

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