Finn Little, Geoffrey Rush, Jai Courtney, Trevor Jamieson, Morgana Davies
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…stuck in the shadow of what it could have been and what it’s trying to prove itself a worthy successor to.
When remaking any film, especially one connected to a classic piece of cultural storytelling like Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy, there has to be a reason that it’s being done. Something that connects the story to the now to make the past feel like it’s being reborn to inform the present.
This remake of the 1976 classic certainly does this… but with less than pleasing results.
In fairness, the bulk of the film focusing on the titular Storm Boy, brought to heart-wrenching life by newcomer Finn Little, works nicely. The story of a young boy who finds, rescues and raises three pelicans hits all the right emotional buttons. It even gives Jai Courtney (playing the boy’s father, Hideaway Tom) a chance to be in a film that’s worth his talent.
This Storm Boy taps into similar themes as the original, dealing with separation from one’s family or kin, allowing the unfortunate timelessness of Australia’s historical separation of families to seep through and give this a kick in the right direction.
However, before we even get to any of the truly soulful material, we’re subjected to the biggest change between this and the original: the framing scenes featuring Geoffrey Rush set in the present day. Before we get any sightings of wildlife, let alone pelicans, we’re shown Rush as the grown-up Storm Boy walking into a corporation while protesters shout about stealing native land, mining and endangering the environment.
This sets the tone for what follows: moments of genuine merit interrupted by the filmmakers trying way too hard to be relevant today, and this has obviously backfired, big time.
Apart from the obvious, though, there’s a certain art to including societal commentary in one’s work, allowing it to build on the story’s strengths and making it into a cohesive whole. Here, it just feels like the audience is being yelled – they should feel something, even before the film itself makes a genuine attempt to do so.
Through Rush’s character we are given a microcosm of Australian society’s own recollection of the original film: remembering it fondly, but worrying that the most important lessons have been forgotten or ignored. This is a method of wraparound storytelling that can work very well, especially as a means of showing just how much has changed between iterations. The latest Halloween serves as a great example of this, using the 40-year interim between films to re-enforce the film’s main intent and give itself purpose.
Unfortunately, Storm Boy doesn’t have the same effect; it’s a mildly pleasant experience, where its biggest faults are what has been added onto the original story. It is stuck in the shadow of what it could have been and what it’s trying to prove itself a worthy successor to. No rush to see this one.