Sweet Country Review
Sweet Country offers an intimidating glimpse into the harsh realities of Australia’s colonialist past and showcases the struggle of the indigenous people.
Warwick Thornton has once again created another classic piece of Australian cinema with his new western Sweet Country. The film is set in 1929 in the Northern Territory outback populated mainly with farmers, who treat the aboriginal abhorrently.
The film revolves around Sam Kelly, an aboriginal farmer, who is hunted through the outback for murdering a white landowner. In truth, Sam had defended himself against his former employer, Harry Starch, a cruel, aggressive war veteran who constantly comes to blows with the protagonist.
The main character is chased by Sergeant Fletcher, also a war veteran, who feels a bond towards the murdered Starch and hungrily hunts down the hero with prejudice.
The main theme of the film is the racist treatment of the indigenous people by white colonisers.
Throughout the film, various indigenous characters give a glimpse into the horrible lives they have to live, which includes slave work, being taken from their homes and prejudicial treatment from the white colonisers.
Other major themes of the film are the destructive power of colonialism and the lack of justice for indigenous people.
A scene showcasing these themes is when the elder farm hand Archie lectures the young boy Philomac. He discusses with him how he was stolen from his land as a boy and that now he is lost to his country and people forever.
It is a powerful scene that drives home the ideas of this film; a confronting image of Australia’s dark history.
Hamilton Morris, a relatively unknown actor, puts in a fantastic performance in the main lead as Sam Kelly. Ewen Leslie, playing the villain Harry Starch, also gives a confronting and intimidating performance; together these actors make the film thoroughly entertaining.
The direction of the film is its greatest asset, however: its slow pacing makes the sparse violent scenes tremendously powerful and extremely confronting. The long aerial shots over the deserts, dry riverbanks and billabongs are incredibly beautiful and contrast well with the ugly story.
Overall this film is enjoyable and will quite possibly stand as one of Australia’s classic films.