Storm Boy

Imagine a world that blends classic hero animals such as Skippy and Flipper with that of the rather more gentle beast: the pelican. Congratulations, you’ve got Henri Safron’s tale of a lonely Australian kid. Set in a nature reserve; a father-son-duo live alone, away from the world in a ramshackle shelter and living off the land – land that the director rather likes shooting in a series of extended and eventually tedious landscape shots. Playing out on a bed of considerably loud classical music, the young lad, Mike, longs for a friend to make his isolated life a little more interesting. On one of his many wanderings, the youngster stumbles across a lone aborigine called Fishbone (David Gulpilil) who he befriends in secret from his papa. After saving some chicks, young Mike and Fishbone nurse them back to health; leading to one of the birds having a hand (or rather, wing) in saving a trapped boat during a storm.

So what of the performances? Well, when a group of professionals are heftily out-acted by a pelican called Mr Percival, you can’t help but think that somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. The bird steals the show with its deep guttural call, heroic and eventually deathly antics. For what is a family film, this 1977 AFI Best Film Winner lacks any humour or fun, and sadly one can’t help but distrust Fishbone’s scruffy, odd demeanour. He comes across as creepy rather than supportive – our society of mistrust may have to take some of the blame – but their relationship is handled messily, leaving you feeling more uncomfortable about their growing bond than anything else. If you’re after a movie that the modern family can enjoy, this most definitely isn’t it. But if you’d like to celebrate the life of a famous acting Aussie pelican, it might well be right up your street…you bird loving weirdo.

By Matt Hamm

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