THIS is a remake of a lovely film that swept Australia, and rightly so, when Henri Safran filmed it in 1976.
This time, Justin Monjo’s screenplay bookends Colin Thiele’s novel with reminiscences by its principal character. Now a grandfather, Michael (Geoffrey Rush) has come to the meeting of the board of the pastoral company that he started. His son-in-law board chairman wants to lease the property to miners. His 17-year-old granddaughter Madeline (Morgana Davies) objects and Michael takes her for a walk on which he begins to tell her his story.
Thiele might have been well satisfied with how director Shawn Seet, whose long career is mainly in TV, told that story. Playing young Michael, the Storm Boy, Finn Little can find an acting career if that’s what he wants. In a humpy beside SA’s Coorong, Jai Courtney plays his father Tom with a nicely balanced gravitas appropriate for a man whose wife has left him to raise the boy.
Aboriginal actor Trevor Jamieson is a delight as the hermit Fingerbone Bill who befriends Michael and tells him about the relationship between the pelicans living in the area and the weather. David Gulpilil, who played Fingerbone in 1976, makes a cameo appearance as Fingerbone’s father.
The story is about one of three pelican chicks left orphaned after hunters shot their mother. Michael and Fingerbone raise them to adulthood, getting Tom involved as he begins to understand his son’s need for a diversion from his loneliness. Michael names one bird Mr Percival, a name that Colin Thiele embedded in the Australian vernacular.
The film has a few gaffes that fortunately do virtually nothing to diminish its emotional impact. In re-telling the book, those emotions are delivered with nicely understated credibility for which Geoffrey Rush and Morgana Davies provide a comfortable framework of bookends and occasional intermissions.
For children of all ages, “Storm Boy” is hard to fault.
At all cinemas