OYSTER FARMER (Anna Reeves) Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Heath, Cate, Russell and other Aussies are conquering Hollywood these days, but consider this, mate: what was the last Australian film you saw? Japanese Story? Priscilla Queen Of The Desert? Does Moulin Rouge count?
Perhaps to remedy this, the Australian Film Weekend heats up the Isabel Bader Theatre, with Anna Reeves's 2004 film Oyster Farmer as the gala opener.
It's an absorbing little pic set and filmed on the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales. Jack (Alex O'Lachlan), a restless young buck recently hired as an oyster farmer, devises a clever scheme to rob a bank and mail himself the money, but when the package goes missing, he starts wondering if his new neighbours have swiped it.
Reeves's script has a few too many wandering subplots, but she's got real affection for her misfit characters, who include a grizzled old Vietnam veteran (Jack Thompson), a spacy young woman with a thing for footwear (Diana Glenn) and the grumpy head farmer (David Field).
O'Lachlan, simmering with anger, has tons of charisma. Look for the sizzling scene, punctuated by some earthy Down Under talk, in which an older woman applies antiseptic to his cut body.
The setting is unique; bet you didn't know how oysters were farmed. Reeves keeps her telling to a minimum, content to let us do the work and figure out the fascinating emotional connections among the characters. Screens Friday (February 10) at the Isabel Bader, followed by the fine psychological drama Look Both Ways, which won a prize at last year's TIFF.