Oscar® Nominee for Best Costume Design
Australia a.k.a. “Austrália”
Reviewed by: Misty Wagner
Romance, Western, War, Action, Adventure, Drama
2 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
November 26, 2008
DVD: March 3, 2009
Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) is an English Aristocrat who spends her days among society and riding her horse amongst her illustrious estate. For some time now, her husband has been down under, at their Australian cattle farm aptly named Faraway Downs. Certain that it is excuses he presents to her for holding on to the the Australian property and not returning home, Sarah believes that he is instead attempting to cover up an adulterous relationship. With World War Two taking it’s toll on the world’s economy, Sarah decides to venture down to Faraway Downs herself, confront her husband and talk him into selling the property. Once there, however, Sarah finds that things are far worse than even her husband could have predicted.
With the help of a well experienced drover (an individual, similar to a cowboy, who herds animals over long distances) played by Hugh Jackman, and a recently orphaned bi-racial aborigine boy, Sarah sets out to rejuvenate Faraway Downs.
“Australia” confronts several important pieces of Australian history. The most consistently portrayed is that of the Indigenous Australian’s Stolen Generation. From a period beginning in the mid 1800’s and extending until 1973, the government strongly practiced the removal of Aborigine children from their families, and most often times put them into the practice of slavery for the wealthy whites of the nation. Not only was aboriginal racism prevalent, but often times Aborigine women were allowed to be possessed and taken by men whenever they chose. In regards to cattle droving, quite often the men would shave the heads of Aborigine women and dress them as men, for the purpose of having these women available sexually for the duration of the trip. A large percentage of these children taken were the products of such circumstances.
The other key part of this film’s historical retelling is that on February 19, 1942, Darwin, Australia was attacked by Japanese forces. These attacks were orchestrated by the same man who led the attacks on Pearl Harbor, two and a half months before. These attacks involved 188 attack aircraft and 54 land-based bombers.
There is a slight scattering of profanity, with one (that I recall) blatant use of the F-word. There is an implied sex scene which does, briefly, display quite a bit of skin. Throughout many scenes involving Aborigines, their authentically accurate apparel doesn’t leave much to the imagination—often revealing completely unclothed backsides.
There are several scenes of injury, violence, war or murder. Though not overly graphic, there is still some gruesome imagery.
As with any other Baz Luhrmann film, the message derived from “Australia” is solely dependent upon the viewer. Baz made it clear, from the beginning, that the telling of the story of this stolen generation was very much at the heart of his movie. As I watched, (and criticized) the story’s unfolding, the one theme which seemed to make itself most noticeable to me was that of home and belonging. Home could be anything, from a structure where one lives to a tribe where one comes from. Home could be the love between two people, or the maternal bond between a woman and child. As this film addresses, again and again, the racial and bi-racial issues of historic Australia—we are shown that belonging doesn’t have as much to do with biological or tribal connection as it has to do with love, sacrifice and acceptance. There is a popular saying which states “Home is where your story begins,” and as the characters of this movie tell their story, it is quite clear to see that in many ways our own stories are our homes.
In an utterly vibrant and beautiful way, the audience is shown an epic film filled with tragedy, truth, unfairness, redemption, hope, sacrifice, loyalty and love. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to walk away from this film without something worth holding onto.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Heavy
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.