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.