FILM REVIEW: Storm Boy
Legend has it that every time a pelican dies, a storm will follow. Storm Boy is a timeless and contemporary retelling of Colin Thiele’s beloved classic Australian tale of an unusual and unconditional friendship.
When Michael Kingley, a successful retired businessman and grandfather, starts to see images from his past that he can’t explain, he is forced to remember his long-forgotten childhood, growing up on an isolated coastline with his father. He recounts to his granddaughter the story of how, as a boy, he rescued and raised an extraordinary orphaned pelican, Mr Percival. Their remarkable adventures and very special bond have a profound effect on all their lives.
Director: Shawn Seet
Cast: Finn Little, Geoffrey Rush, Jai Courtney, Trevor Jamieson
Review by Jean Wong
Adapted from Colin Thiele’s book of the same name, Storm Boy (2019) tells a tale of a boy’s journey as he maneuvers from his sheltered existence to a wise and sensitive character. At the same time, the film tackles environmental conservation issues and pays homage to the indigenous Australian peoples.
Finn Little, who plays our protagonist Michael, expertly pins down the complex character of an isolated boy learning to build friendships. His coming-of-age story is a fascinating one and does not just stop once he matures, but rather continues on to his seniorhood. Growing up with the sound of occasional gunshots ringing through the air, Michael finds some orphaned newborn pelicans after one such incident. Unhesitantly, he gives them a home and raises them with the help of Aboriginal man named Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson). The smallest and weakest of the trio is named Mr. Percival by Michael, after a character in a book he was reading who survived all odds. His simplicity in finding joy through his beloved pets shines through his nurturing actions and builds an understanding for the viewers of his attachment to pelicans later on.
Interwoven with Michael’s coming-of-age story is the theme of environmental conservation that surrounds the film. In a nearby village, a vote is underway to preserve a parcel of coastal land as a pelican sanctuary, and Mr. Percival’s presence serves as a focal point for the issue. Though Michael did not have any direct part to play in the voting then, present-day Michael (Geoffrey Rush) faces a similar choice — to vote for or against allowing mining to take place in some of Australia’s coastal lands. The environmental message hits home at the sight of the birds falling victim to the trigger-happy hunters.
Jai Courtney, who plays as Michael’s father, Tom, skillfully adopts a compassionate but reserved personality on screen that is befitting of his character. Little and Jamieson also handle their roles well, enhancing the interplay of their characters as they take turns to care for the pelicans. Working with pelicans, though seemingly fun, must have been an unusual experience but it clearly did not daunt the accomplished actors nor child actor Little. Animatronic pelicans were in fact used in some of the close-up shots, which were so incredibly realistic I found it hard to believe. Jamieson’s character, however, was a little bit undeveloped. Though an attentive attempt at including indigenous peoples, the chance to have a nuanced and fleshed-out Aboriginal character is wasted as Bill’s purpose was in the film was never clearly defined.
Storm Boy an all-encompassing film of a young boy dealing with change and learning about friendships, with a soft reminder about environmental issues on the side, helping to raise more awareness and hopefully evoke a change.
Storm Boy (2019) will be available for viewing on Thursday, 17 January and the weekend of 25 – 27 January. Get your tickets at Salt Theatres now.
Image credit: Ambience Entertainment