starring: Mia Wasikowska, eric bana, radha mitchell and eddie baroo
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
After befriending a wild blue groper, Abby uses her activist mum as inspiration to battle against poachers who threaten the fish.
Blueback is an excellent Australian drama from co-writer/director Robert Connolly, adapted from the novel written by Tim Winton, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Blueback is another example of the quality coming from the Australian film industry, and also another from Connolly following his own fantastic 2021 film The Dry.
I’ve noticed recently a mourning of sorts on the in-video essays of film on YouTube regarding the alleged loss of the mid-budget film in Hollywood, a category that film buffs hold up as a high point of American cinema over the last few decades. If they are right that this ground in Hollywood has been substantially lost to superhero and franchise movies, then I suggest that the Aussie film industry is helping fill that gap in the market with films like Blueback.
Blueback is an affecting drama told with care through two parallel timelines. The film centers on Abby, with one timeline concerned with her as a young girl growing up watching her mother Dora advocate and fight for the preservation of the waters and the ecosystem of their town’s bay. The other sees her pulling away from her life and responsibilities as a highly educated researcher investigating the bleaching of Australia’s coral reefs, to return home to care for her mother following her recent and significant stroke.
Blueback explores the connection between mother and daughter and how their shared love of the ocean and the marine habitat they live in shaped their lives. The timelines of their young and old counterparts are presented in ways that allow the film to examine their beliefs and motivations without one undermining the other. I found this to be a key strength of the film, allowing the audience to appreciate how the young headstrong and passionate Abby (Ilsa Fogg) is both influenced and challenged by her activist mother (Radha Mitchell).
Adult Abby (Mia Wasikowska) is tested in caring for her sick mother, whose life has now been profoundly altered, and the consequences this has on Abby's work. A charming further way this is illustrated throughout the film is with Abby and Dora’s friendship with an old wild Blue Groper who lives in one of their diving spots. These fish can live to be decades old, and old Blueback becomes a presence in their lives, a figurehead representing what Radha fights for and what Abbey is seeking to protect.
Blueback is another accomplished film from director Robert Connolly that, with care and skill, tells an affecting story about how a shared love of the ocean has impacted the lives of a mother and daughter.