REVIEW: “THE DROVERS WIFE” (2021) SXSW FILM FESTIVAL

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While having not read the short story on which the film is based, being a fan of Leah Purcell was enough to entice me to find out what a Drovers Wife was exactly. A NSW/Australian project, “THE DROVER’S WIFE”, is the full feature version based on Henry Lawson’s short story of the same name, and Purcell not only directs, but plays the lead Molly Johnson aka the Drovers Wife, as well.

Our story is beautifully set in the bleak harshness of the Australian outback and we see Molly give early aid to the new lawman come to town, Sergeant Klintoff (Sam Reid) and his London-born wife Louisa (Jessica De Gouw). Louisa’s goal is to publish a newspaper for women trying to empower them, her husband is set on not having this happen due to wanting to keep up the appearance of being a strong lawman. The film turns out to be somewhat of a message movie for women in mid 19th century Australia, and the world, to be free of fear of abuse from their husbands. We watch and we suffer with and through Molly’s marriage to a abusive alcoholic and unfaithful husband along with her struggles to raise her four children alone.

Director: Leah Purcell as Molly Johnson

It is also a strong statement about racial acceptance as the movie progresses, as we learn from an Aborgine man whom she aids that that Molly herself, might be the child of an mixed marriage. It is especially rough when we see there is a legal effort from neighbors to take the children away from Molly, because they are “octaroons” and is heart-wrenching to watch is when her young son Danny (Malachi Dover-Robbins), overhearing the conversation, and asks his mom what an “octaroon” is. He also witnesses so much more that happens to his mother that no child should ever see.

Molly is among the toughest women portrayed in any western— Australian or otherwise, as she is a crack shot with a rifle and, in the course of the film, dispatches at least 5 people for various justifiable reasons. And the acting throughout is decent, it’s just almost sad that it just starts slow, jumps around a bit too much and you lose the sense of the story at times as some of it just isn’t clear due to those jumps, turning it on it’s dull side. Purcell though, is a remarkably strong female lead in this otherwise bleak tale. It is a tough watch at times but demonstrates the power of one woman’s voice to make changes.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening: Courtesy of k2 Publicity and SXSW Film Festival

REVIEW “HACKSAW RIDGE” (2016) Lionsgate

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Let’s start off by acknowleding that “HACKSAW RIDGE” is not for the faint of heart. It’s incredibly violent in its war scenes as it tells the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an Army medic that refused to carry a weapon as not a ‘conscientious objector’ but as a ‘conscientious participator.’ This, until now, untold story of Doss, is one that will stick with you long after the film is over.
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Of course you wonder going in can Mel Gibson redeem himself after so much has been made of his lack of judgment, drunken rants, and his anti-semitic rhetoric and in essence, being blackballed these last 10 yrs. as yes, though he is perfectly capable of doing so, it’s a long climb up.

Turns out it would be hard not to do with this story. The film starts in the sober times of WWII around 1944, Desmond Doss, the son of Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving), an alcoholic Army man who served in World War I and is suffering from what we now know is PTSD. Doss & his family, while patriots, are also devout Seventh-Day Adventist’s. His brother, Harold Doss (Nathaniel Buzolic) joins the Army leading Desmond to join also, against their father’s wishes, in the fight against Japanese in some of the final battles of WWII.
Doss is in love with Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer, a nurse’s aide who is scared that she’ll never see him again, especially after the persecution he is sure to face when he refuses to touch a gun in training camp and is facing being court marshaled for this refusal by his commanding officers, Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) & Captain Glover (Sam Worthington).
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From there we move onto who Doss actually becomes as he proceeds during the stand-off at ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ to show his true being and save as many lives as he possibly can while dodging bullets and hand grenades, all without a gun. There are moments you want to scream at him “Just pick the damn thing up” whereas at other you are with him 100% for not doing so. Not being religious myself, it would be hard not to realize both sides have their points which anyone, whether religious or not, can understand and decide on their own.

My only and very few beefs were: The beginning had a lot of fluff & cheesy-ness to it. Second: While I realize Mel is an Aussie, but to put so many Aussie & Brits as leads in a southern film trying to do southern accents, just doesn’t always quite go up to par and here was the same. As decent as most of the acting is, it’s still very detectable that they don’t have the accents down pat. We also at one point, lose the brother. He literally get’s up from dinner, and we never see him again, nor do we know what happened. Lastly, the supporting cast is truly amazing here and bring so much to this film, although the age-range of the actors might have been off some. They were starting off at playing young 19-22 yr. old’s and frankly almost all look quite a bit off that range including Garfield himself.
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As for the rest, truly I must say I don’t think anyone does battle scenes as well as Mel Gibson does. Again, It’s extremely violent and graphic as well, real war actually can be. I had to turn away a few times, but the story Gibson puts up there of all of the terribleness of war is just so well done. I was brought to tears when they quoted “During peacetime, sons bury their fathers, during war, fathers bury their sons.” It got me.

Conclusion: Many will walk into this film wanting to dislike just because of Gibson, most of them will walk out knowing they just saw a really good film.

Grade: B-
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Review Screening: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Meetup Group
Nationwide Release: Friday, November 4, 2016