Accused of murder, an Aboriginal stockman and his wife try to stay ahead of a fervent posse in the harsh outback of the Northern Territory, in this period drama from acclaimed Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah).
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An outback western inspired by real events, Warwick Thornton's Sweet Country is a story of personal conviction and settler justice set in the stark panoramas of Australia's Northern Territory. Although his film takes place in 1929, Thornton's central concerns about colonialism, law, and power have a compelling contemporary resonance.
Aboriginal stockman Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) works the land of a kind preacher, Fred Smith (Sam Neill), living and labouring in a respectful, if diffident, harmony. But when a bitter and often-drunk war veteran named Harry March (Ewen Leslie, also appearing at TIFF in The Butterfly Tree) returns to town, trouble escalates and Sam is forced to kill in self-defence. Shocked, afraid, and with a deep distrust in the impartiality of settler authority, Sam and his wife, Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber), go on the run. Urgently pursued by a posse led by Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) and Aboriginal tracker Archie (Gibson John), expert bushman Sam must ultimately decide which of several looming unknowns to face.
In Thornton's skilled hands the salty desert, red earth, heat, and dust of the outback becomes another character, captured in all its harsh beauty. His debut feature, Samson and Delilah, caused a sensation when it won the Camera D'Or in Cannes in 2009. Sweet Country contains many of that film's signature elements — frugal, precise use of dialogue, stunning cinematography, a profound sense of place, and enthralling performances. Yet the intricate social narrative and sweeping scope of Thornton's latest proclaims a stunning next step in the evolution of this filmmaker.