Jasper Jones (M)
98 mins ★★★★ Its source may have been described as Australia’s To Kill a Mockingbird, but this adaptation of Craig Silvey’s 2009 novel feels more like a cross between The Dressmaker, Stand By Me and our own The Scarecrow.
Set in the fictitious rural town of Corrigan, Western Australia in the summer of 1969, Jasper Jones is the story of 13-year-old Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller). A Mark Twain-loving dreamer, his seemingly uneventful life is transformed when he is dragged into a Huck Finn-type adventure by the eponymous Aboriginal boy of the film’s title (Aaron L McGrath).
Agitated and angered, Jasper leads Charlie to the tree where he found his girlfriend, Laura Wishart, hanging. Worried that the finger of blame will inevitably point to him (‘‘This is Corrigan – nobody will believe me, especially when it’s my rope and the tree is at my place’’), Jasper demands that Charlie help him dispose of the body.
He also has his own theories on who might have disposed of the body, accusing reclusive war veteran ‘‘Mad’’ Jack Lionel (Hugo Weaving) of being the prime suspect. But as Charlie begins his own investigation into events, he discovers the situation may not be as simple as it first appears.
Best-known for the much-loved similarly set, comedy-musical Bran Nue Dae, director Rachel Perkins again does a terrific job of evoking a sense of space and place.
Corrigan, with all its small-town prejudices and secrets, is beautifully brought to life, from the struggling local cricket team to the longestablished social hierarchy.
Screenwriter Shaun Grant keeps many of the novel’s many weighty themes, but delivers them with such verve and taut-storytelling that watching it all unfold is a joy, rather than a slog. - James Croot
Rural Western Australia of the 1960s, with all its small-town prejudices and secrets, is beautifully brought to life in Jasper Jones.