Urban Cinefile
"He - my character - was always being beaten up and enslaved and whipped, and you know after a couple of weeks of this, I was uptight"  -Paul Mercurio on his role as Joseph
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In the Summer of 1967, young Willie (Rocky McKenzie) is filled with the life of the idyllic old pearling port of Broome - fishing, hanging out with his mates and hoping to get a date with the lovely Rosie (Jessica Mauboy). However his mother (Ningali Lawford) returns him to the religious mission in Perth for further schooling on the path to be a priest, she hopes. After being punished for an act of youthful rebellion by Father Benedictus (Geoffrey Rush), he runs away from the mission and heads back to Broome, meeting a hippy couple (Tom Budge, Missy Higgins) and Uncle Tadpole (Ernie Dingo) along the way. Their trip takes them through some adventures with Roadhouse Betty (Magda Szubanski) and Roxanne (Deborah Mailman) before their final pit stop at the local watering hole, where Rosie is singing up a storm - but dating someone else. When Father Benedictus finally catches up with the runaway, all kinds of family secrets tumble out on the splendid nearby beach.

Review by Louise Keller:
'There's nothing I'd rather be than an Aborigine,' goes the song and that is the message this film version of the musical delivers. It's an ambitious film from Rachel Perkins, who pushed the boundaries in 2001 with her wonderful music-driven film One Night the Moon, and this is a lively and life-embracing musical road trip in praise of Aborigines. The film has some great ideas and although it doesn't always zing, there is more than enough bottled sunshine to make us smile. The angel with the black skin in the animated opening credits sets the mood as fantasy is coupled with reality and once the music starts, it's impossible not to tap your feet along with the beat. With a script she has co-written with Reg Cribb (Last Train to Freo), Perkins takes a bunch of diverse elements and themes and joyously tosses them in the air.

Finding your own slice of heaven in a world filled with sinners is the film's thrust, and Perkins packs an incongruous gaggle of unlikely characters together. This is a road trip that embraces culture, family, romance and dreams surrounded by the dusty, red outback of Western Australia. I laughed out loud when Geoffrey Rush makes his wonderful presence known as the baseball bat-carrying German priest who booms: 'Ah Villie, Velcome back to the city.' Villie, er I mean Willie (Rocky McKenzie) is a dreamer, but the dream he is pursuing to become a priest, is not his own but his mother's. His own dream embraces the seductive Jessica Mauboy; the beautifully lit fantasy scene with hundreds of candles in which they sing together, is indicative of Andrew Lesnie's beautiful cinematography. The music's great too - the original score by Cezary Skubisevski and the covers, ably sung by the musical cast.

The road trip begins when Willie takes the rap for rifling Coke and Cherry Ripes from the tuckshop fridge and runs away from his Fremantle boarding school. It is 1967 and he sets out on the long journey home to Broome. Ernie Dingo is a scene stealer as the alcohol-loving Uncle Tadpole, who together with Willie gets a lift in a flower-power, hippy-decked combi-van driven by Tom Budge's odd-ball German visitor Slippery and songstress 'Missy' Higgins' free-spirited Annie. Along the way we meet Magda Szubanski armed with a fly swat and rifle and Deborah Mailman, who lures Willie under The Condom Tree. There are twists and turns along the desolate highway and things start to look up as we near the strikingly beautiful coastline. There's a happily-ever-after ending too, amid confessions, revelations, love-declarations and good-humoured chuckles. Amen. I'll drink to that.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Gloriously irreverent, musically inventive and effortlessly entertaining, Bran Nue Dae delivers on its promise to bring the highly acclaimed stage musical to the screen. Like Richard Frankland's entertaining road movie, Stone Bros. which preceded it into cinemas by a couple of months, Bran Nue Dae celebrates being Aboriginal in a wickedly humorous fashion ... and sometimes unexpectedly, like a truck full of blackfellas dancing to the famous Mikis Theodorakis' theme from Zorba the Greek. It's an entirely appropriate loan, though, given that tune is also a celebration of cultural identity.

Young and virginal Rocky McKenzie is a likeable innocent as Willie, whose quest for happiness is both simple and recognisable: he just wants to hang out and date his new girl, Rosie, marvellously played by Jessica Mauboy, who also sports a splendid voice. As does the charismatic Ernie Dingo, who steals the show as Uncle Tadpole, a larrikin spirit with a taste for spirits and a big heart. Geoffrey Rush makes Father Benedictus a larger than life character whose past catches up with him, while Tom Budge and Missy Higgins (singing beautifully) make a great pair of hippie combivan travellers, with a big surprise awaiting them at the end of the road.

Both Magda Szubanski and Deborah Mailman shine in two spectacular novelty character roles and Ningali Lawford is warm and maternal as Willie's mother; she even knows who his father is! Rachel Perkins directs with a sense of fun and all the creatives provide valuable support in design, music and cinematography - the latter by the talented and multi-award winning Andrew Lesnie, whose lighting works beautifully in all scenes, including some challenging external and interior moments.

Bran Nue Dae can't be accused of failing to be a crowd pleaser, and word of mouth should help spread the film's accomplishments.

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(Aust, 2009)

CAST: Rocky McKenzie, Ernie Dingo, 'Missy' Higgins, Tom Budge, Geoffrey Rush, Magda Szubanski, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Ningali Lawford

PRODUCER: Graeme Isaac, Robyn Kershaw

DIRECTOR: Rachel Perkins

SCRIPT: Reg Cribb, Rachel Perkins, Jimmy Chi (stage musical by Kuckles, Patrick Duttoo Bin Amat, Michael Manolis Mavromatis, Stephen Pigram)


EDITOR: Rochelle Oshlack

MUSIC: Cezary Skubiszewski


RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 14, 2010

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020