Sweet Country (2017)

Sweet Country
Director: Warwick Thornton
Writer: Steven McGregor, David Tranter
Cast: Hamilton Morris, Tremayne Doolan, Natassia Gorey Furber, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Ewen Leslie, Thomas M. Wright
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 1.11.2017

Aboriginee Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) has been working as a farmhand for Fred Smith (Sam Neill) for a long time and Fred is kind to him, his wife and niece – or at least he’s a better master than the other white people around them. But when Fred travels and their new neighbor (Ewen Leslie), a drunk and cruel man, takes advantage of the situation and attacks them, Sam ends up shooting him. Even though it was self-defense, Sam knows that the white men will come for him – and he takes off into the desert.

Sweet Country chose an interesting topic and setting for its story, but it nevertheless didn’t really work for me. It felt too long and clichéd for that.

If you had told me that Sweet Country had been made by white filmmakers, I wouldn’t have been surprised. That’s probably because it’s telling an obviously political and well-meaning story about how mistreated Aboriginees were at the time but that fails to feel empowering at all. Probably because in the end justice doesn’t prevail. And while that may be realistic, I really would have liked it if we could have that ending, unrealistic as it may be, where things work out in favor of the minority group for once.

Add to that the ending was just the last in a long line of movie and storytelling clichés that was just a little boring to watch. Especially since the film already felt overly long. In particular the chase through the desert could and should have been cut short.

At least the film has nice, well-rounded characters. They are not entirely cliché-free either, but the clichés are mostly reserved for the white people in the film, so that’s something. I just don’t think it was enough to make the film really come together.

Since I think that stories about racism and the failures of the justice system are more than timely and that we really can’t pretend we (in the sense of white people) have come along much further, I would have loved to like the film more than I did. But I found it mostly tedious.

Summarizing: Should have been better.

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