Set in 1929 Sweet Country walks the razors edge of race relations between Aboriginals and Whites deep in the Australian. The relationship between the communities span from being treated with respect and dignity to being seen as property depending on whose land you’re on. The aborigines work as labour and domestic help on the properties but fear that the continued expansion of the white settles continue to encroach on their historical lands.
Sam Neil’s Fred Smith is at one end of the spectrum. He treats his workers fairly and sees them as equals in conversation and based on his actions. Nearby Mick Kennedy (Thomas M. Wright) beats a teenage aboriginal boy Philomac (Tremayne/Trevon Doolan) who is likely his son with a belt as he stole a watermelon from the garden. The other end of the spectrum is occupied by Harry March (Ewen Leslie) the recently arrived war veteran, drinks constantly Philomac to a post when he comes to work on his property then rapes Sam Kelly’s ( Hamilton Norris) wife Lizzie ( Natassia Gorey-Fuber) who came along with Sam and the boy to help March settle in to his new place. Philomac escapes pursued by Harry March leading to a exchange of gunfire between Sam Kelly and March.
Director Warwick Thorton explores frontier justice and customs in his expansive visually stunning productions. The Northern territories with its vast open spaces, lack of green and never-ending orange,, sun and dust serve as a featured character in the film. A group of four lead by the local law man Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) and including Mick and Fred chase after Sam and Lizzie who outwit them based on their knowledge of the land. As the tale unfolds Thornton uses the nifty device of flash forwards to give a glimpse of what the future will hold for the main participants.
Sam Neil continues his streak of strong performances as the steady handed preacher Fred Smith. Acting neophytes Tremayne / Trevon Doolan alongside Hamilton Morris as Sam Kelly hold their own in a community that is set up against them where they have no idea how they will be treated from one person to the next. Ewen Leslie is powerful and impactful in the limited role of Harry Marsh that serves to get the main thrust of the story kick started.
Warwick Thorton explores native/settler relations in the most remote regions of Australia in the first part of the last century. The settlers see their presence as just scratching the surface of the territory while the Aborigines see them as already to deep into their territory. This difference of opinion and position will always lead to conflict, tension and confrontation that is unfortunately still not fully resolved today.
**** Out of 4.
Tags: Outback, Station, Stockmen, Servants, Rape, Beating, Shotgun, Self Defense, Chase, Trial, Verdict, Sentence.