Shawn Seet’s remake of the Australian film, which stars Geoffrey Rush, makes jarring missteps in its final act
There are elements of the author Colin Thiele’s classic children’s book Storm Boy that, if not adapted for the screen with the right sensibility, risk creating an experience about as uplifting as a story involving drug addicts collapsing in the gutter with needles in their arms.
The director Henri Safran got the balance right in his excellent 1976 version, infusing an elegantly constructed film with light and dark elements that resonate across all age groups, evoking the child in the adult and the adult in the child.
The director Shawn Seet (who has worked mostly on television shows, including Hiding, The Code and Underbelly) and screenwriter Justin Monjo (who penned Spear and Jungle) are less successful this time around. Whereas the tone of the original film was a delicate mixture of wistful and inspirational, the rebooted Storm Boy is more melancholic – at times, to put it bluntly, an epic downer. It is also, perhaps reflective of the current times, considerably more political, italicising the message of environmental conservation that was previously implied.
Recent allegations of sexual misconduct against Geoffrey Rush, which he denies, have cast a shadow over the release of the film. Rush plays an older version of the titular character, Mike “Storm Boy” Kingley, who is now a board director, preparing to vote on whether a mining company can lease areas of the beautiful coastal land he grew up on.
One of the first scenes outside an Adelaide office building depicts a protest against mining in the Pilbara, and Kingley is asked by a reporter whether he still has a conscience: an early indication that the film’s sentiments will not be subtle.