Director Robert Connolly has made a film for our times with his adaptation of Tim Winton’s classic novel Blueback.
It’s a story of a peaceful oceanic haven facing destruction by unchecked commercial development and by over-fishing of the fragile marine environment.
The film is memorable for its stunning shots of the beautiful West Australian coastline, mainly filmed around Bremer Bay on the south coast and also with inspiring underwater vision of Ningaloo Reef, by cinematographers Andrew Commis and Rick Rifici.
Mia Wasikowska stars as Abby, a marine biologist, who hurries home to Longboat Bay after her mother has a stroke.
In flashbacks we see young Abby (Ilsa Fogg), free-diving with her mother Dora (Radha Mitchell) on the reef near their home and working together in theiri productive vegetable garden.
They share a love of the natural world and Dora campaigns to try to protect it from the commercial groups who want to exploit the area with a new housing development.
“You and your mum think you can stop this, doncha,” mocks one of the developers. “The whole reef will soon be gone.” – “We’ll see about that!” retorts Dora.
When she introduces Abbey to a giant groper which has made its home on their reef, the little girl’s initial shock changes to delight as the huge creature gets used to their presence. Abbey names him Blueback and dives down to meet him whenever she can, feeding him with scraps of abalone.
She becomes so enthralled with the underwater life that she determines to become a marine biologist. It’s a happy choice but her international work takes her far away from her mother and the natural life she loves at Longboat Bay.
This is a simple story, centred around Winton’s familiar theme of conservation and protection of the environment.
Ilsa Fogg is a standout as young Abby but it is a pity that such fine actors as Wasikowska and Eric Bana (as the wisecracking fisherman Mad Macka) were not given more opportunities to display their talents.
The maritime theme was underlined in the score by talented West Australian musician Nigel Westlake, known internationally as a composer for the screen, whose impressive new trumpet symphony premiered at the Perth Concert Hall this month.
Blueback is currently showing as part of the Perth Festival’s Lotterywest film season at UWA’s Somerville Auditorium, and runs until Sunday, November 27.
Watch the trailer…