Twelve-year-old Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) lives with his father Jack (Sam Worthington) in the West Australian outback. One day at school Dylan discovers he is extremely good at making and flying paper planes. While attempting to refine and develop his newly realised ability, Dylan finds himself caught up in the world of competitive paper-plane making, leading to new friendships, new rivalries and new revelations about his own family.
Review by Louise Keller:
An impressionable 12 year old ready to discover the world, a grieving father intent on shutting the world out and a madcap granddad keen to embrace it are the three key characters in this rousing and heartwarming family film in which winning, losing and family are everything. Robert Connolly's thoroughly enjoyable film, which he co-wrote with Steve Worland (Bootmen, 2000), economically tells a story that is simple, but not simplistic. It's an uplifting coming of age story about dreams and one in which the father son relationship plays a vital part.
When the film begins, it does not escape us that there is a reversal of roles in the small home in the outpost town of Wale Up, where 12 year old Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) lives with his father Jack (Sam Worthington). While Jack mooches about on the couch sleeping and watching the footy on TV, Dylan productively heads off to school on his bike. There he becomes enthused by the latest school project - paper planes and the chance to compete in the Australian Junior Championship in Sydney.
There's a sense of wonderment as Dylan becomes engrossed in the art of making and throwing the paper planes; folding and pressing the creases in the paper was something his mother had taught him before she died, 5 months earlier. It is her death that Jack has been unable to get over. Advice comes from everywhere. 'Figure it out,' says his teacher (Peter Rowsthorn); 'Take pride in your work,' says Grandpa (Terry Norris), a former war pilot; 'Study everything that flies,' suggests his dad.
Oxenbould is terrific as the kid who immerses himself in all things that fly, including the bird of prey he feeds each morning. The sequence in which Grandpa breaks four laws - starting with 'escaping' from the old aged facility in which he lives and taking Dylan to a vintage aircraft exhibition is a hoot, Dylan being swept away by his grandfather's enthusiasm in an unexpected fantasy, shot in black and white.
Worthington delivers an effective minimalist performance, pitching the tone perfectly, while David Wenham is a welcome presence as the golf champion and father of the obnoxious Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke), for whom winning is everything. Much of the film's tension results from the competitive element between Jason and Dylan. Deborah Mailman is effusively warm as the competition officiator and I especially like Ena Imai (in her first feature role) as Kimi, the Japanese paper plane champion, whose multi-coloured nails, cute, colourful clothes echo her philosophy that creating something interesting is more important than winning.
There is a sense of expectation as the competition progresses and Connolly shoots the scenes in such a way that it is easy to become mesmerized by the paper planes as they glide effortlessly through the air. Filmed in remote Western Australia, Sydney and Tokyo, the film looks great through Tristan Milani's lens and Nigel Westlake's melodic score adds to the experience. Connolly avoids schmaltz, leaving the emotional heart of the film to beat on its own merits; I was surprised to be moved on occasions and found myself wiping away a couple of tears through the proceedings.
Connolly's Paper Planes works on every level and soars to delivers its positive and inspiring message to young and old.
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PAPER PLANES (G)
CAST: Sam Worthington, Ed Oxenbould, Deborah Mailman, Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke, Terry Norris, Peter Rowsthorn, Julian Dennison, David Wenham
PRODUCER: Robert Connolly, Liz Kearney, Maggie Miles
DIRECTOR: Robert Connolly
SCRIPT: Robert Connolly, Steve Worland
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tristan Milani
EDITOR: Nick Meyers
MUSIC: Nigel Westrlake
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Clayton Jauncey
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 15, 2014