'Storm Boy' was originally a beloved and classic novel by the late Colin Thiele. Older audiences may have studied the text in school, as well as the 1971 film adaptation.
You could argue that a new film version is rather unnecessary, but the latest offering does try to reach new audiences by contemporising some things.
Geoffrey Rush stars as a retired businessman and the grown-up version of the titular character. Mike Kingley is now a grandfather. His granddaughter Madeline (Morgana Davies) is interested in environmental causes, particularly those relating to the Pilbara. The Madeline character can be quite one-dimensional at times, often just a feisty schoolgirl rallying against her father.
Mike is a man with some regrets, as he reminisces about his childhood through a series of flashbacks. While Geoffrey Rush gives a good performance in this film, there will be audiences who will find it difficult separating these moments from the allegations the actor is facing. This story does jump around between the past and the present, and the transitions can be rather jarring to watch at times. This isn’t a seamless story by any stretch.
Finn Little gives an incredibly emotional and sensitive performance here in his feature debut. He plays Storm Boy AKA the younger Mike Kingley who is grieving the recent deaths of his mother and sister.
Storm Boy lives in a hut with his conflicted father, Hideaway Tom (Jai Courtney who makes a departure away from action films like 'Insurgence' and 'Suicide Squad' to perform this loving and paternal role). Both Jai and Finn share a great chemistry together as father and son. This was especially necessary as the pair live together in an isolated part of South Australia called Coorong. Their neighbour is Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson 'The Secret River'). He is a knowledgeable and kindly man even though this character plays a smaller role than in the original story. David Gulpilil who played Fingerbone Bill in 1971 also has a cameo here.
The cinematography in this film is gorgeous. Shawn Seet directs the material with a deft touch. The visuals capture the jewels of the local scenery. The pelicans – live birds for the most part – are also magical to watch. Many of the scenes are complemented with songs by the late Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. This reinforces the connection between the humans, animals and our great Southern land.
This film is appropriate family viewing. Younger children however, may get bored by some of the more slow-burning scenes. They also might get frightened by the hunters. The adults will probably appreciate the natural tones and realistic costumes more than the children do.
It's 99 minutes long and there is some repetition that could have been edited out. Justin Monjo’s script is also a tad muddled because it tackles too many subplots at the expense of more thorough character development. While it’s a reasonable idea to update the story for contemporary audiences, this modern day plot often detracts away from the proceedings.
'Storm Boy' is ultimately a pleasant film about an unlikely friendship. It tackles themes like tragedy, loneliness, hope and loss. This is a gentle, slow-burning and atmospheric drama. It can be enjoyable at times but there are moments where you are left feeling as though this hasn’t completely taken flight.