Lucky Country (2009)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Kriv Stenders
Writers Andy Cox
Starring Aden Young, Toby Wallace, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Pip Miller, Neil Pigot, Eamon Farren
Genre Period
Tagline None listed


Every now and again you run across a movie that the Wine and Cheese set are raving about and comparing to a classic of Aussie cinema. The movie turns out to be an exercise in boredom that makes you wonder whether drowning kittens wouldn't be a better use of your time. Lucky Country is just such a movie that has people creaming their knickers and comparing to the far superior John Hillcoat flick The Proposition (2005). Maybe they should be comparing it to Australia (2009), at least in that comparison test Lucky Country would come out ahead. I managed to sit through the movie, taking a bullet for the team kids, and am here to state no greater levels of tedium have I endured for a long time. Lets try and get this one done in record time so I can forget the experience. It's unfortunate as I normally like Kriv Stenders' movies.

It's 1902 and the Australian Federation is a year old. School Teacher Nat has dragged his two kids, Tom and a verging on womanhood Sarah, to an isolated dirt farm in the middle of the South Australian bush due to some religious nonsense about God providing. Since Nat's wife died it's down to Sarah to keep the home fires burning while Nat and Tom continue with the subsistence farming deal. One night three strangers arrive at the old cabin and in good Christian fashion Nat can't turn them away. Henry, Carver, and Jimmy are ex-soldiers who have tried their luck on the gold fields. Things deteriorate when Jimmy shows Sarah the gold he has hidden from his partners. Naturally every man and his dog finds out about the gold leading to Tom's loyalty being put to the test, Nat's Christian faith being exposed, and 101 deep and meaningful things that your regular movie viewer isn't interested in.

I'm deeply shocked Lucky Country didn't win a whole bunch of AFI awards as the movie is right up the alley of the Wine and Cheese set. It might move at a glacial pace, have a script that you have seen a dozen or so times before, and be doing it's level best to put the Audience to sleep, but it's simply dripping in hidden meaning, themes, and that sort of high brow malarkey. Maybe a couple of koori characters addicted to what ever they smoked early last century would have helped. And I'm waiting on someone to work out there's a bloody good horror movie in Koori mythology if you want to dial in. Koori vampires don't sparkle, just saying.

The problem with Lucky Country's pacing is that it is so slow that you can work out where the movie is going, finish your shopping list, and still not be half way through the movie. In one of the early scenes Nat falls down a hill and ends up with a rusty nail through his hand. I was wondering if they had tetanus shots back in the day and figured even if they did Nat would not have had ready access to it. Religious mania, a sprinkling of cabin fever, and the lock jaw syndrome going down, you don't think Nat is going to be slightly unhinged do you? Equally the three riders were clearly going to bring a spot of chaos into an already spiralling out of control situation. And once gold entered the equation I figured the rest of the movie was going to be about loyalties being brought into question in the face of unadulterated greed. Long story short, I picked where the plot was going, it didn't offer any chance to move off the garden path, and the whole thing sort of ended up as a cut rate home invasion flick meets rural desperation film. Lucky Country did not offer up any shock developments to break the shamble to the preordained conclusion, the Audience has it figured out way before the film makers get where they are going.

While the Gothic overtones of the movie work, and a number of performances raise expectations … Toby Wallace (Tom), Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Sarah), Pip Miller (Henry) …, things deteriorate rather too quickly with the dialogue getting on board over exposition train, and three of the characters not working beyond being cookie cutter material. It's something of a disappointed as clearly some care has been taken with the cinematography and the movie looks good in a sort period setting fashion. You get the overall feeling writer Andy Cox spent far too much time with his themes at the cost of pacing and making an actually interesting movie. As the North Americans would say, “Oscar bait”.

Considering Lucky Country might have kicked a goal as a rural paranoia, us and them movie, it begins to come apart at the seams when the gold enters into the equation, and we are left with yet another attempt at the home invasion torture flick. You can mix any theme you want into that mix but we have all seen the concept before and done a hell of a lot better, Funny Games (2007) immediately comes to mind.

I went into Lucky Country thinking ScaryMinds needed to tackle some serious film making to show our critics that yes we can do upmarket movies as well, that would be as opposed to our normal fare of out and out horror. Sorry if this movie is considering “intelligent film making” then IQs have certainly dropped recently. I don't know what movie other people got to watch, the one I was exposed to belaboured the point, had no concept of pacing, and was so self aware that it forget to actually be entertaining. There's a reason Lucky Country remains an undiscovered down under movie, it simply isn't that good. Hey this all goes to giving credence to the saying “all that glistens is not ...”. No recommendation, go watch The Proposition instead.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  As the kids would say, complete fail two face palms.