Having just spent a glorious couple of weekends immersed in all manner of films at the Melbourne International Film Festival, I’m perfectly prepped to dispense advise on some of the finest flicks currently on offer. The exciting news is that three of my top four recommendations are Australian! So get thee to a cinema near you and watch the magic on the silver screen as the lights go down …
The first thing you’ll notice about ‘Palm Beach’ is its star-studded cast of Aussie favourites – there’s Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Richard E. Grant, Greta Scacchi, Jacqueline McKenzie and Heather Mitchell, for starters.
The next thing you’ll note is that most of them are over 50 – that’s not a demographic usually in the spotlight in modern films! So it’s exciting to confirm that ‘Palm Beach’ not only holds its own with other Hollywood blockbusters, but also appeals to an all-ages, all genders audience. The times they are happily a-changing!
There’s not one particular key to the success of ‘Palm Beach’ – its triumphs are many, including top-notch acting, a believable script and brilliant cinematography that will make you long for summer.
Expertly directed by Rachel Ward, the story is a comedy/drama that centres on a group of lifelong friends who reunite for a party at a luxurious house in Sydney’s picturesque Palm Beach; but tensions mount when long-held secrets emerge.
Universal issues of ageing, marital relationships, children and friendship are played out against the backdrop of some gorgeous scenery – this is a charming, funny and life-affirming film that many will find relatable.
Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan
It’s not always easy to watch war movies, but their crucial role in helping us understand history is something that can’t be denied, and ‘Danger Close’ certainly falls into that category.
Director Kriv Stenders brings into reality a scenario that many of us would struggle to comprehend if we were simply reading about it – in August 1966, in a Vietnamese rubber plantation called Long Tan, 108 young and inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought for their lives against 2,500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. It’s jaw-dropping proof of how infantry in close combat can cleverly use their artillery and tactics to balance the scales when faced with a huge number of adversaries.
The excellent acting is spearheaded by Travis Fimmel (best known for the series ‘Vikings’) who plays Major Harry Smith, the Australian who led his inexperienced company consisting mainly of conscripts.
It’s an emotional and visceral movie featuring many special effects that help bring a sense of realism to the audience, and giving a glimpse into the hardships faced by these young men on a physical, mental and emotional level.
The Vietnam War has long been known as a politically unpopular war, but this important story brings some long-overdue acknowledgment to the soldiers who fought in it.
The Australian Dream
The Audience Choice winner at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, this feature-length documentary is a must-see movie for all Australians as we walk a path to understanding and reconciliation.
Written by award-winning journalist Stan Grant, ‘The Australian Dream’ centres on the remarkable personal story of AFL player Adam Goodes, using his career and experiences to tell the larger story of the issue of racism in Australia.
Goods was a beloved hero of footy – a two-time Brownlow Medallist and former Australian of the Year – and this documentary traces his life from pre-draft right through to his post-AFL career, where he has become know for his Indigenous rights activism.
Featuring interviews with many well-known Australians, it paints a picture of a country divided and the rampant racism Goodes faced as an Indigenous footballer, brought to the general public’s attention by the infamous and hideous incident in 2013 when a 13-year-old Collingwood supporter called him an ape.
‘The Australian Dream’ is a call to arms that examines race, identity and belonging and hopes to shift some minds and hearts in the process. Spend 90 minutes at the cinema and come away asking yourself what sort of country you want Australia to be.
This American comedy-drama from writer/director Lulu Wang is based in part on her real-life experiences. It’s an incredible film in its own right, but it’s made even more so once you’ve seen it and have been able to digest the fact it’s based on an actual lie and the ensuing complicated scenario that Lulu’s family got themselves involved in.
The lead character of the film is 30-year-old Billi, a headstrong Chinese-American woman from New York whose family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch, Nai Nai, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The problem is, Nai Nai is the only person that doesn’t know she only has a few weeks to live!
The family’s decision to hide the truth from Nai Nai is in keeping with traditional Chinese values of ‘collective over individual’ suffering. As the film unfolds we see how each character in the large cast grapples with the situation and their part in it.
Despite the heavy aspects to the storyline, it’s actually full of laughs and the acting is superb – Nai Nai’s real-life younger sister even plays herself!
While managing to stay lighthearted, the film delves into several layers of grief – not only the impending loss of a loved one, but the confusion of being unable to pin down a sense of ‘home’ when your upbringing involves different cultures and ways of life, and the physical loss of cherished places due to the rapid changes that modern day advancement and technology brings.
Once you’ve seen the film, jump online and read more about Lulu Wang and this amazing true story!