TL;DR – A movie that has good moments, but is hamstrung by its narrative framing device that was unhelpful and unneeded
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a post-credit scene but not one you need to stay back for
When you grow up there are these touchstone moments as you discover the world of cinema. For me, and I would say a lot of people in my generation that grew up in Australia, the original Storm Boy movie was one of those moments (well until you have to write an essay on it for English, which was the worst. Well, it has been many years since I have watched the original, so I was really interested when I heard they were remaking it, well that was until I saw it.
So to set the scene, we do not start with the story of the pelicans, but instead, we begin many years later when Storm Boy has grown into being an old man (Geoffrey Rush). He is back in Australia because his son-in-law (Erik Thomson) is holding a vote to allow mining on his company’s pastoral land. The old man’s granddaughter Madeline (Morgana Davies) is very much opposed to it, but he is all just a bit ambivalent to it because it is not really his business anymore. But before the vote could be cast a storm damages the building and we get a day’s pause. It is during this time that he decided to tell his granddaughter the story of when he was a child (Finn Little) and he and Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson) found some baby pelicans, orphaned after hunters killed their parents.
there were a lot of issues with this adaptation, there were also a lot of things
that I do want to point out., Firstly, with the pelicans,
there was a good blend of animatronics, visual effects, and real-life pelicans. It is so good that bar a
couple of scenes towards the end you have to really look to see the seams. This
is supported with some beautiful cinematography that is equal parts nice framing,
but also the boon of shooting the film out on location in some of the most
beautiful coastlines in Australia.
To add to all this, the three main leads all work really well together to sell what could be a very silly premise. Jai Courtney is made for these kind of roles, he really sells that man with a tough exterior, but on the inside, he is holding a deep pain. Trevor Jamieson gives this film the substance in needs, tying it all together. I would not envy anybody that has to follow in the shoes of David Gulpilil and he does so any more. Now, of course, there is the titular Storm Boy played by Finn Little, which is not an easy role to play. Finn gives a really nuanced performance, which would have been a hard job for any actor, but especially difficult for someone so young. However, he pulls it off which is important because he is the emotional core of the film.
there are these moments that work, unfortunately,
the film is held back by a shoehorned framing device that really detracts from
the film’s emotional weight. As I mentioned, we don’t start with the story of
the pelicans, but in the future. This means that throughout the film we have to
stop the flow of the narrative and get yanked back into the future. Now this
framing device is not in the 1976 film or
the original novel and unfortunately, it
adds nothing to the narrative, in fact,
it actively detracts from it. The core story is about a boy, his father, his
guide, and the pelicans they help, but it takes almost 20 minutes of run time
before we even get to that.
Every time the film stops to jump back to the future the narrative and pacing lurches to a halt. If there was some emotional pay off at the end it could have worked, but not only is there none of that, it instead it detracts from what emotional weight is already in the story, lessening the impact of the ending, which is a real travesty. All of this is not helped by the granddaughter being written as if they have never met a teenager before, and Geoffrey Rush spends his entire runtime looking as if the film is beneath someone of his calibre.
the end, do we recommend Storm Boy? Maybe, sort of, no-ish. Look if you go see it, it is not like you will be wasting
your time, and there are good moments. However, it lacks any emotional weight and
you will become frustrated every time it jumps back to the future. Honestly, I
would be interested to see a version of this film with the framing device
edited out. However, until then I would recommend searching out the 1976 film
instead, which is a real shame.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Storm Boy
Directed by – Shawn Seet
Screenplay by – Justin Monjo
Based on – Storm Boy by Colin Thiele
Music by – Alan John
Cinematography by – Bruce Young
Edited by – Denise Haratzis
Starring – Jai Courtney, Finn Little, Trevor Jamieson, Geoffrey Rush, Erik Thomson, Morgana Davies & David Gulpilil
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: na; Germany: na; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: na; United States: PG