Lowdown: A 12 year old finds inspiration in paper planes.
The above might sum the plot of Paper Planes in one line, but there is more – much more – to this YA targeted take on the feel good movie formula.
To start with, this is an Australian movie (hooray!) and our boy is called, strangely enough, Dylan. Dylan (Ed Oxenbould) is based in middle of nowhere WA, and it is clear he’s in for a tough time: his school mates run an iPad/iPhone shop while he’s stuck with his Nokia brick; at his derelict looking home, Dylan has only his father (Sam Worthington) for company, and what poor company it is – the father either lies on the couch in what seems to be drunken stupor or watches TV, mostly through his medieval VHS.
When a visiting teacher from Melbourne demonstrates paper planes to Dylan’s class, it is only the kid stuck in medieval times that seems to have a knack for it. Call it a knack or a passion, it doesn’t matter: through blatant use of digital special effects our Dylan flies his paper plane like no other.
New paths open before Dylan: if he can hold the competition off, including this very privileged boy who is the son of a successful golfer (David Wenham), he can take part in the state paper plane tournament; and later, in Australia’s tournament at Sydney; and then, it’s the world tournament, in Tokyo!
Things are not easy for Dylan, though. In order to be able to jump through the hoops he needs to persevere and learn what makes one paper plane better than another. He needs to find his inspiration. Most of all, he needs to deal with his problems at home.
For a movie aimed at younger audiences, Paper Planes sure packs a lot of themes. There are the matters of seeking out how to learn things (believe it or not, it’s more complicated than a Google search or a browse of Wikipedia), of dealing with loss, of supporting and being there for one another, perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, and competitiveness vs. friendship. Affairs are fantastic, as mentioned already, through the use of digital effects; but that only serves to add a dreamlike quality to this movie. After all, we are seeing things through the eyes of a 12 year old with quite a lot on his shoulders.
Different people will take different things out of Paper Planes. The theme I found most relevant, particularly in Australia with its chip on the shoulder idea for competitive sports that dictates opponents must be thrashed, is the one that demonstrates how we can learn by respecting our opponents. Do not stop there: we can befriend them, and – of course – learn from them. In this regard, this Australian movie is very UnAustralian; I doubt Tony Abbott approves of this union inclined approach.
Paper Planes is one of those low key movies that packs a feel good punch. I can say that, at our home, it proved quite interesting for my own not too dissimilar to Dylan child; it was definitely a fine deviation from the animated computer animation Hollywood stuff that has been his staple movie diet. Me, I could not hide the tears.
3.5 out of 5 surprised crabs.