Eric Bana stars as a troubled Eastern European immigrant in this heartbreaking family drama of displacement and emotional dependency set in the backblocks of 1960s rural Victoria.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
Only the strong could survive the isolation of rural Australia in the 1950s and 60s and for many new arrivals from Europe, who were often refugees from war-torn lands, or only used to crowded cities, the wide open spaces and sparse population proved difficult to endure. Eric Bana, whose handsome, brooding brow echoes every nuance of his empty, inhospitable surroundings, stars as one such recent immigrant from Eastern Europe, Romulus Gaita, in this moving family drama set in the backblocks of rural Victoria. Seen through the eyes of his spindly and sensitive son Rai (played by captivating young newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee) who lives alone with his father in a ramshackle cottage on the edge of a dustbowl, Romulus comes across at first as a melancholy and reticent character who we assume has been recently widowed. But all that changes with the arrival of his feisty and volatile wife Christina (Franka Potente, Run Lola Run) who returns from a sojourn in Melbourne determined to have her cake and eat it too. For although Christina has begun a new life with a new man, she remains emotionally and financially dependent on Romulus. When the adults in his life begin to lose their bearings, Rai must find a way to cope – with a little bit of help from his philosophising uncle Hora (Kiwi Marton Csokas in a charming and uncharacteristically sympathetic role). Australian actor-turned-director Richard Roxburgh extracts powerful performances from his stellar cast, who find a ravishing backdrop for their inner turmoil in an exquisitely photographed outback landscape. Based on popular writer and philosopher Raimond Gaita’s acclaimed memoir, this is complex, heartbreaking adult drama at its finest.