COUNTRY LIFE LINES
Everybody Has a Plan (Todos tenemos un plan)
(MA15+) ★★★ ✩ Limited release from Thursday
Despicable Me 2
AUSTRALIA’S indigenous filmmakers continue to make an impression in film and television, and Catriona McKenzie’s Satellite Boy is the latest example. Reminiscent in some ways of the groundbreaking Walkabout (1971), made in Australia by Briton Nicolas Roeg, McKenzie’s heartfelt drama focuses on Pete (Cameron Wallaby), a boy of about 12, who has been left in the care of his grandfather, Jagamarra (David Gulpilil), while his mother is away, apparently taking a course in hospitality in the nearest large town. That’s some distance away because the setting is the vastness of the Kimberley and it’s from this vastness that the old man and the boy emerge as if from the land itself in the film’s unforgettable opening shot, an image repeated in reverse at the end.
The presence of Gulpilil, who was 16 when he played the lead in Roeg’s film and who now sports a fine head of white hair and an aura of calm wisdom, confirms McKenzie’s main theme — the importance of country, of land, to the Aboriginal people. Jagamarra attempts to instil in his grandson not just a love of country but the importance of country to him as a human being — but the boy is too young, too immature, to listen seriously to the old man. He has his own dreams, which involve establishing a restaurant when his mother returns — if she returns, and Jagamarra is pretty certain she won’t. Meanwhile the old man and the boy live in makeshift conditions in a long-abandoned drive-in cinema in the middle of nowhere, its screen in tatters, its projection room filled with the detritus of a once popular source of entertainment.
Even this rudimentary accommodation proves tenuous when a representative of a mining company arrives with an order to clear the area, which is to be developed as a storage facility. Determined to fight what he sees as an unjust decision, Pete — brushing aside his grandfather’s objections — decides to set off on his bike to the headquarters of the company to plead his case. He’s accompanied by his tearaway friend, Kalmain (Joseph Pedley), who has been in trouble with the police, and soon the pair, spooked by a police presence on the road, abandon their bikes and head across country on an impromptu walkabout. This is the heart of the film as Pete is able to use the teachings of his grandfather, teachings he has never before taken very seriously, to survive in the barren wastes of the desert.
Geoffrey Simpson’s magnificent
photo- graphy vividly captures the vast landscapes of the Kimberley and the Bungle Bungles and the creatures that inhabit this extraordinary land. The beauty of the film, though impressive, never overshadows the harshness of life in this part of Australia. Gulpilil radiates an aura of quiet authority, and the boys — neither of whom had any acting experience before this — are engagingly natural performers.
This is McKenzie’s first feature film but she has worked extensively in television drama; her feeling for landscape and tradition emerges strongly and her handling of the actors is excellent. Indeed, so much of the film is impressive that it’s a little disappointing when the narrative becomes more conventional in the later stages, with the introduction of Pete’s flighty mother (Rohanna Angus) and Kalmain’s acquisition of a gun. But for the most part Satellite Boy is a fine addition to the growing list of impressive indigenous films being produced in this country. EVERYBODY Has a Plan is also a debut feature film from a female director. Ana Piterbarg is one of a growing number of women directors working in Argentina, and her film is set partly in Buenos Aires and partly on an island in the delta of a large river. It’s a thriller of sorts, about twin brothers, Agustin, a city doctor, and Pedro, who lives on the island, produces honey and is involved in criminal activities with Adrian (Daniel Fanego), a man the brothers have known since they grew up in this isolated spot. The twins are played by Viggo Mortensen, who speaks fluent Spanish in the part; Mortensen lived in Argentina as a youth, hence his ability to speak the language.
Agustin has moved away from the backwater where he grew up and has carved a successful professional life in the city with his wife, Claudia (Soledad Villamil) — but it’s clear he’s deeply unhappy and he reacts badly to Claudia’s attempts to adopt a baby, so badly that she decides to leave him. It’s at this moment that Pedro, who is seriously ill and who has just been party to a murder committed by Adrian, chooses to visit his brother for the first time in a long while.
Without wishing to give away too much of the plot, the story kicks in when Agustin takes the place of Pedro with the intention of starting a new, unfettered life, unaware of the crime in which his brother has participated. This is a well-worn plot device: Antonioni’s The Passenger had Jack Nicholson assume the role of another man and Graham Greene wrote the story for Ken Annakin’s Across the Bridge, in which the same sort of thing occurs. In this case, Agustin as Pedro finds his plans for living the quiet life, and romancing a sweet local girl, Rosa (Sofia Gala Castiglione), are threatened by hostile locals, suspicious police and, ultimately, the deranged and dangerous Adrian.
As the film proceeds it becomes more schematic — and violent — but for the most part it’s a competent thriller with psychological overtones, and it offers Mortensen the opportunity, which he seizes, to play two very different roles. The river setting is well evoked and Adrian, a Bible-spouting fanatic with a sadistic streak, is a formidable villain, even though his motivations are on the murky side, a criticism that could also be levelled at some of the film’s other characters. DESPICABLE Me 2 is the second in the Frenchproduced franchise of animated films about Gru, an arch villain turned good guy, wonderfully voiced with a strong middleEuropean accent by Steve Carell. Assisted by his ‘‘ minions’’ (little yellow creatures with funny eyes) and egged on by the three little girls he adopted in the first film, Gru accepts an assignment to work with AVL (Anti-Villain League) to frustrate the evil plans of a sinister chef who has devised a poison that will turn victims purple and vicious. Gru teams with AVL agent Wilde (Kristen Wiig) for this assignment, and the result is an amiable, well designed animated feature that should appeal to audiences young and old (the young won’t get many of the jokes and even the old may wonder at the reference to Carmen Miranda, exotic star of musicals of the 1940s). Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin directed.
David Gulpilil, left, and Cameron Wallaby in
a scene from