A movie review of “Charlie’s Country”: David Gulpilil gives a powerful performance as an indigenous Australian man whose sense of dislocation results in a series of triumphs and misadventures. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
David Gulpilil is an actor many of us have watched age from his teen years to his 60s on the big screen, beginning with his powerful debut as an indigenous Australian boy undergoing the titular ritual of 1971’s “Walkabout.”
In the decades since, Gulpilil has worked with top directors (Peter Weir, Philip Noyce, Wim Wenders among them) and brought soulfulness and native authority to appearances in “The Last Wave,” “The Right Stuff,” “Crocodile Dundee,” “Until the End of the World” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence.”
Gulpilil’s collaborations with filmmaker Rolf de Heer in recent years led to “Charlie’s Country,” a 2013 production anchored by a stunning performance from the actor.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Charlie’s Country,’ with David Gulpilil, Peter Djigirr, Luke Ford. Directed by Rolf de Heer, from a screenplay by Rolf de Heer and David Gulpilil. 107 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Partially in Yolngu, with English subtitles. SIFF Cinema Film Center.
Equally heartbreaking and joyful, the drama stars Gulpilil as Charlie, a lean, weathered, aboriginal man living in the north Australian community in which he grew up. With his land taken and the region now overrun by white cops, Charlie’s customary way of life has all but vanished.
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He lives in a squalid room, has little to eat (his hunting gun and a handmade spear have been confiscated by police) and he watches as an ailing friend is flown off to die in Darwin, far from his roots.
Frustrated and angry, Charlie embarks on a quest to regain his identity and dignity, with mixed results. “Charlie’s Country” becomes a series of chapters in noble effort and misadventure alike, all captured with fluid camerawork trained on Gulpilil’s every move or his long passages of mesmerizing stillness.
The film’s most memorable section finds its hero temporarily living in a rain forest, thriving happily as he did in better, easier years before dislocation. This remarkable man becomes himself again — if only for a time.