Sundance 2018: Sweet Country REVIEW

Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Director Warwick Thornton puts an American Western spin on the Australian-based Sweet Country.

Adapting the film from a screenplay by Steven McGregor and David Tranter, Warwick and second unit director Dylan Rivers pull double duty as the film’s cinematographers, capturing the majestic beauty of the outback of Australia and re-create the end of the 1920s.

Set in Alice Springs, Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) is Aboriginal working under the employee of preacher Fred Smith (Sam Neill). Harry March (Ewen Leslie) needs some extra help so Fred offers to help out the World War 1 veteran by lending him Sam. Harry’s temper gets the worst of him and Sam isn’t afraid of defending himself or his family. In typical Western tradition, a shoot out takes place and Sam is soon put on trial under the jurisdiction of Judge Taylor (Matt Day) but is soon captured by Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) as he’s a wanted man.

Sam Neill is in fine form as the preacher and tackles the role in the same way he brought paleontologist Alan Grant to life 25 years ago in Jurassic Park. Morris is essentially a newcomer to acting in a feature film and the only other item on his resume are two appearances in a six-episode comedy series.

Sweet Country premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2017. It won the Toronto Platform Prize at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Sweet Country screens at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as a Spotlight selection. Samuel Goldwyn Films will release in March 2018.

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