DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

SUNDAY TOO FAR AWAY (director: Ken Hannam; screenwriter: John Dingwall; cinematographer: Geoff Burton; editor:  Rod Adamson; music:  Patrick Flynn; cast: Jack Thompson (Foley), Max Cullen (Tim King), Robert Bruning (Tom), Jerry Thomas (Basher), Peter Cummins (Arthur Black), John Ewart (Ugly), Reg Lye (Old Garth), Gregory Apps (Michael Simpson), Phyllis Ophel (Ivy), John Charman (Barman), Lisa Peers (Sheila Dawson), Ken Weaver (Quinn); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Gil Brealey/Matt Caroll; South Australian Film Corporation/Castle Hill; 1975-Australia)

"Feels much like a big-hearted TV sitcom."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Aussie TV director Ken Hannam ("Dawn!"/"Summerfield"/"Robbery Under Arms") effectively directs one of his early five feature films. It was the first film produced by the South Australian Film Corporation, a subsidiary of the South Australian state government created in 1972 to present local film production. John Dingwall wrote the bitter-sweet screenplay, one about male camaraderie that feels much like a big-hearted TV sitcom. It's one of only a few films on sheep shearing that I recall, and though shearing is not that exciting a watch its appealing star, Jack Thompson, kept me tuned into how he navigates such a tough career choice. What the story never managed, however, was to get me to passionately care about the characters and their hard life.

It's set in 1955 Australia (it was shot in Port Augusta and Quorn, South Australia), in the desolate Outback, where a group of itinerant sheep shearers, led by drifter Jack Foley (Jack Thompson), work for contractor Tim King (Max Cullen) on Dawson's isolated sheep station and experience a bad cook (Ken Weaver), hard work, intense competition to see who is the best shearer, boredom, isolation, loneliness, drinking problems and finally a strike that lasts 9 months. Before the film ends in a pub brawl between scabs and striking shearers, Foley has to compete for shearing honors with newcomer Black Arthur (Peter Cummins) and loses. Foley also bunks with a hopeless disheveled drunk, Old Garth (Reg Lye), and that reinforces the brooding former champion gun-shearer to retire as a shearer after this job and find a more suitable occupation, or he thinks he might end up also a loser without a viable family life.

The title was lifted from an Australian poem entitled "The Shearer's Wife's Lament." Thompson sings the title song.

Thompson won in 1975 the Best Actor award for Australian films, in a rewarding film that paved the way for future Aussie films to be shown internationally. Also, its well-conceived male bonding presentation reminds one of the great Howard Hawks and how his films richly used such a theme.

REVIEWED ON 6/2/2014       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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