Jasper Jones (M)

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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