Movie Reviews
12:43 pm
Mon January 6, 2003

Rabbit Proof Fence

Director Philip Noyce captures the challenge of fighting the establishment and the Outback, but he doesn't seem to know how to make the journey interesting story telling-not much happens as the children cunningly avoid the law.

"Everybody's got to have a home" is an idea oft repeated in art. Earlier this year, a man ran for his life and family over the frozen tundra in "Fast Runner." For my last review of 2002, I see we are still running for home and enduring the elements in "Rabbit Proof Fence," where three aborigine children hike 1200 miles of Australian Outback to get home after being abducted by the British government in a purify-the-half-castes program.

This is a beautifully photographed film never letting us forget the children's need to be reunited with their mothers as a primal drive. The children use the Australian fence, which runs from north to south to keep rabbits and cattle on opposite sides, to guide them back home in 1931 with the expected run-ins with authority, personified by a believably narrow-minded administrator (Kenneth Branagh). His notion that scooping up mixed-race children to eradicate the culture is a benefit for the oppressed aborigines perfectly echoes the 19th-century British colonial zeal.

Director Philip Noyce, who also directed this year's "Quiet American," captures the challenge of fighting the establishment and the Outback, but he doesn't seem to know how to make the journey interesting story telling-not much happens as the children cunningly avoid the law.

Peter Gabriel's indigenous score, however, well reflects the haunting allure of the Outback. "Walkabout's" David Gulpilil, playing a tracker torn between duty and racial loyalty, and Christopher Doyle's lush photography counterpoint the decadence of British imperialism.

Other films this year were concerned with the longing for family unity: "Harry Potter," "Antwone Fisher," "Road to Perdition," "Gangs of New York," even the light-hearted "Catch Me If You Can." In our age that touts "family values," these films remarkably show how difficult it is to retain those values.

Andre Maurois expressed the enduring need for family when he said, "Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles with the cold." Films of 2002 trembled.