Reluc­tant com­rades

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

LIKE much of the best com­edy, Lucky Miles (Satur­day, 8.30pm, ABC2) looks at se­ri­ous, even tragic, events through a prism of quirk­i­ness and fri­vol­ity. Michael James Row­land’s de­but fea­ture about boat­peo­ple seek­ing refuge on Aus­tralian shores in­cludes sto­ries of be­trayal, ex­ploita­tion, cul­tural prej­u­dice and great phys­i­cal suf­fer­ing. Yet the re­sult is won­der­fully strange and en­joy­able. An In­done­sian peo­ple-smug­gler drops a bunch of Cam­bo­di­ans and Iraqis on an empty stretch of West Aus­tralian beach. Yous­sif (Rod­ney Afif) is an en­gi­neer from Basra whose wife and chil­dren have been killed by the Iraqi regime. He is joined by Arun (Ken­neth Mo­raleda), a Cam­bo­dian, who has some­how eluded a po­lice roundup at an out­back pub. Their reluc­tant com­pan­ion is Rame­lan, the peo­ple-smug­gler. All are pur­sued by a mil­i­tary pa­trol, and Row­land strikes a nice bal­ance be­tween the story’s far­ci­cal el­e­ments and its darker un­der­tones.

Hol­ly­wood loves films about child prodi­gies, maths ge­niuses and bril­liant ec­centrics with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties, es­pe­cially when com­bined with sto­ries of benev­o­lent men­tors. Think Rain Man, Awak­en­ings, Dead Po­ets So­ci­ety. Above all, think Good Will Hunt­ing (Thurs­day, 9.30pm, Gem), Gus Van Sant’s well-crafted charmer whose Os­car-win­ning screen­play was writ­ten by Matt Da­mon and Ben Af­fleck be­fore they be­came fa­mous as ac­tors. They also play two of the main roles: Will (Da­mon), the or­phaned Bos­ton street kid who turns out to be a maths ge­nius, and Af­fleck his work­ing-class buddy.

In Slid­ing Doors (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Gem), Gwyneth Pal­trow’s life moves be­tween al­ter­na­tive re­al­i­ties, de­pend­ing on whether she ar­rives home at the usual hour to be greeted by her boyfriend (John Lynch) or un­ex­pect­edly early, in which case she may find him in bed with Jeanne Trip­ple­horn. The work­ings of chance are neatly ex­plored in this clever ro­man­tic fan­tasy. Think of the pos­si­bil­i­ties: Will He­len get to watch Franco Zef­firelli’s The Tam­ing of the Shrew (Satur­day, 2.30pm, ABC1), with its lusty pair­ing of Richard Bur­ton and El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, or The Coca-cola Kid (Satur­day, 10.10pm, ABC2), a half-baked Aus­tralian com­edy with Greta Scac­chi? Or­son Welles as Long John Sil­ver in a hammy ver­sion of Trea­sure Is­land (Fri­day, noon, Gem), or The Ring 2 (Fri­day, 11.35pm, SBS Two), an Amer­i­can se­quel to the Ja­panese hor­ror film, with Naomi Watts? Let the fates de­cide.

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