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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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Jamie (Shimon Moore) has a good life: he has a good job in a pasta restaurant, is on the footy team, and is the lead guitarist in a rock band. All this is threatened when his mum Celine O'Leary) excitedly comes home with big news: she's landed her dream job as head scientist at a marine research base - on a remote island. The whole family must move. As if this weren't enough, he discovers that those funny web-like things between his fingers he's been keeping secret are a sign that he is a selkie. Selkies, in Celtic mythology, were seals who could shed their skins and live as humans - and revert to their seafaring ways as seals in the water. Just what a teenager always wanted….not.

"Enjoyable, entertaining and well made, Selkie is the sort of film that gives 'family films' a good name. It is neither condescending nor trivial in its approach, and has a good story straight out of the folkloric annals of Scotland, but transplanted - quite naturally - to a coastal Australian setting. The film is absolutely Australian yet absolutely universal: and a highly satisfying 'soft drama' to boot. Above all, the script is intelligent and allows for its audience to have intelligence, an approach matched by the tone of the direction. The performances, so crucial when your key characters are youngsters, are exceptional; Shimon Moore (lead guitar, The Sick Puppies) clicks into place as the young boy who discovers he's a 'selkie' - an enchanted human who can turn into a seal in the water. Chelsea Bruland makes a promising debut as the 16 year old who discovers the secret. Adults also provide credible and engaging characterisations, while the handsome look of the South Australian island locations adds a freshness to the film. The solid story is well told, and the score is both appropriate and enjoyable. It has tension and laughs in a well judged balance, and is one film that anyone can enjoy, whether in a family outing or any other way."
Andrew L. Urban

"Next to the obnoxious children’s films coming out of Hollywood, this Australian equivalent seems innocuous enough. Selkie is firmly in the tradition of local TV shows such as Ship To Shore and Ocean Girl, as well as recent features such as Sally Marshall Is Not An Alien (which used members of the same Adelaide production team) and The Real McCaw. All of them blend telemovie naturalism with comic fantasy, often involving beach scenes and animals; nowadays, this type of film will also feature a couple of minutes worth of digital effects, which probably account for half the budget. There’s no reason at all this formula can’t produce interesting cinema, and I’m inclined to support the genre, since there aren’t many places left where commercially viable ‘small’ movies can be made. Presumably the filmmakers know they have a built-in audience of schoolkids (it’s the kind of thing they’ll be taken to see on the last day of term) and hence aim to keep things safe and simple rather than dazzling and overwhelming. This understatement is Selkie’s main asset: it’s quite attractively shot in muted, sandy tones, and there’s a potential poetry in the unfussed, common-sense approach to the supernatural. Alas, most of this is lost in the underdeveloped storyline, ABC-style piety about dolphins and single mothers, stilted dialogue and all-Australian overacting. As in shows like Neighbours, the need to appeal to a ‘family’ audience results in an over-protective view of impossibly cleancut teens: when the hero and his girlfriend form a band and start jamming together, it’s like an ad for a Christian youth group. You long for a director who could bring a personal touch to the familiar material – transposing something like Steven Spielberg’s humour and ‘sense of wonder’ into a minor, unspectacular, Australian key."
Jake Wilson

"Some reviews you just don't want to write, chief amongst them being those which must bag yet another Australian film. This is one such review. While Selkie has little to recommend it, nothing could be worse then the script by Rob George (Passion). Here features some of the worst dialogue yet heard in Australian movies. How did this get past director Donald Crombie (Caddie, The Killing of Angel Street)? It must be said though he is equally to blame for accepting this completely predictable script in the first place. His direction has done nothing to enhance the straightforward telling of a straightforward story. This is a shame as the myth of the Selkie itself has the potential for real magic. Not here though. Crombie has directed his actors into performances that cover the full range from bland to melodramatic. Shimon Moore seems to have been cast not for his acting ability, but for an almost close resemblance to Leonardo di Caprio underwater. Elspeth Ballantyne as Loopy Laura (yes this is her character's actual name) is the best of the rest of the cast. Crombie's choice of music for the film is like something out of a bad seventies TV show. In fact the end credits suggest some finance has come from Showtime. They need to remember to put it on late at night, the kids don't deserve this."
Lee Gough

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CAST: Shimon Moore, Chelsea Bruland, Mariana Reggo, Bryan Marshall, Celine O'Leary, Elspeth Ballantyne, Edmund Pegge

DIRECTOR: Donald Crombie

PRODUCER: Jane Ballantyne, Rob George

SCRIPT: Rob George (concept by Kate Fawkes, David Marlow)


EDITOR: Edward McQueen-Mason


MUSIC: Sean Timms


RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melb, Perth – Apr 6; Sydney, Melb – Apr 13; Brisb – Apr 20


VIDEO RELEASE: January 15, 2001

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