Slim & I
Joy McKean, Slim Dusty, Keith Urban, Don Walker, Missy Higgins, Troy Cassar-Daley
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…a warm and wonderfully engaging portrait of two Aussie country music legends…
There has been a clutch of both pre-and-post-woke films and other material (Colette, Big Eyes, the fascinating podcast Polly Platt: The Invisible Woman) that have appropriately sought to right gender-based artistic wrongs, finally applying credit to creative women whose gifts have for too long been passed off as belonging to the men in their lives. While the new doco Slim & I doesn’t quite sit in that fiery camp, it does beautifully assert that the legendary status justifiably enjoyed by Australian country music singer Slim Dusty was due in large part to his long marriage and equally lengthy creative partnership with Joy McKean. Vibrant, gifted, charming and reserved, McKean wrote many of Slim Dusty’s songs, organised his touring schedule, raised their kids, and sang gorgeously in his band. Slim & I, however, doesn’t tear Slim down in order to raise Joy up – this utterly charming doco celebrates a true partnership, where the prodigious gifts of two people mesh together to create one perfect whole.
Proving himself to be perhaps this country’s most prolific and diverse director, Kriv Stenders (Red Dog, Danger Close, Boxing Day, Australia Day, and TV’s Wake In Fright and The Principal) excels once again in the documentary field, adding to the exemplary works, The Go-Betweens: Right Here and Brock: Over The Top. Built around interviews with the enjoyably down-to-earth Joy McKean, members of Slim Dusty’s band, and Slim and Joy’s children, the film paints an incisive and honest picture of what a decades-long life on the road was like, while a host of big names (Keith Urban, Don Walker, Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Troy Cassar-Daley, Kasey & Bill Chambers, Darren Hanlon) point to the brilliance of McKean’s songwriting and its profound influence on Slim Dusty’s success.
There is joyous archival footage (including generous mining of 1984’s The Slim Dusty Movie, which is well worth a revisit) and great music (some of the interviewees also dip wonderfully into the Dusty/McKean songbook for note-perfect acoustic reinterpretations), and the cinematography and editing are absolutely top-notch, making for a stylish and well-crafted piece of cinema. An essential look at a vital corner of local pop culture, Slim & I is a warm and wonderfully engaging portrait of two Aussie country music legends.