Tim Winton is one of Australia's biggest authors, but often his adaptions get lost in translation. 'The Turning' (and one film adaption of his I haven't seen) received critical acclaim and was nominated for a slew of AACTA awards. 'Breath' in 2017 also saw a similar fate with critics and the Australian industry but failed to capture audiences and like 'Dirt Music' in 2020, while both are glorious to look at, they failed to leave any emotional impact. After directing the Jane Haper novel 'The Dry' in 2020, director Robert Connolly is the new hot Aussie director and returns to his family roots after 2015's 'Paper Planes', adapting Winton's 'Blueback'. Can Connolly's previous success be the one to break Winton's book-to-film curse?
Abby (adult: Mia Wasikowska, 2010's 'Alice in Wonderland'; teen: Ilsa Fogg in her debut; child: Ariel Donoghue, TV's 'Wolf Like Me') returns home after the news that her mum (Radha Mitchell, 'Swinging Safari', 'Standing Up for Sunny') has fallen ill. When she arrives back, she returns to her deep-sea diving past and recounts her friendship with blue groper Blueback.
'Blueback' will appease teachers across the country as now the book that their students have to read has a film version, but outside of that, it doesn't have much of a demographic. As a New Year's Day release, the film fails to pack a mighty punch and sinks instead. Yes, the acting is great. Yes, the cinematography is stunning. However, it doesn't have much to grab its intended teen audience outside of the fact that they can skip the book in their studies and just watch the film. Partially due to the push for this to be both for families and a tentpole Aussie film, the older demographic that may enjoy this is likely to feel alienated also.
While this is leaps and bounds more engaging than previous Winton adaptions it still comes off as forgettable. It puts its environmental message first and leaves the characters and emotions on the sideline.
Eric Bana (TV's 'Dirty John', 'Deliver Us from Evil') is also here to try to draw back out 'The Dry' crowd but is so heavily underused it's simply a waste. While this is leaps and bounds more engaging than previous Winton adaptions it still comes off as forgettable. It puts its environmental message first and leaves the characters and emotions on the sideline.
'Blueback' is a perfectly adequate film, but when put under pressure of the summer holiday season it doesn't do much to stand out, so being released in this time period it misses the one audience that would be interested in it, school students studying the novel, so will just sink when compared to the competition. This is by no means a bad film - far from it - but it's just going to swim by and not leave the impact it thinks it deserves.