Lowdown: Conflict between black and white Australians reflecting through a game of football.
With the heat wave that recently heat Melbourne, we didn't want to turn the stereo on and boil ourselves and our electronics just in order to watch a DVD. We therefore turned to our collection of VHS videos that we have recorded over the last few months and which gathered dust in the corner and picked one in random; Australian Rules was the pick of the draw.
This Australian film from 2002 tells takes place in a middle of nowhere South Australia fishing town. The local teenager football team, playing Aussie rules football (hence the film's name) is about to play the grand final (the Australian equivalent of a title decider cup final) and tensions are high. The team is equally made of white Anglo-Saxon players and black aboriginal players, and the film follows a white player called Blacky who is a good friend of the best player in the team that just happens to be black. The rest of the team reflects the small community is comes from: the coach is the local butcher, the captain is the coach's son, and so on; most of the characters are pretty lackluster, and generally speaking you cannot say that Australian Rules promotes life in rural Australia. It all looks pretty bleak to say the least and soaked with racism to the bone.
It's not only the town that's going through tense times because of the football game, it's also Blacky's family. His father is more like a tyrant who doesn't hesitate beating his wife, and when racial tensions are on a high after abject discrimination against a black player in the football team, Blacky's father does not hesitate to shoot and kill Blacky's black friend. Blacky is then forced to choose between father, family, team, friends, and his black love interest.
Overall, there is no doubt that Australian Rules is a good film. It touches sensitive subjects and handles them well: Primarily, by addressing racial tensions within the Australian society through sports, a powerful cohesive force in Australia, it emphasizes the issue. It goes further to show the issues facing country towns located in the middle of nowhere with absolutely nothing to offer the younger generations (and not much to offer the older ones either). What I have found to be most interesting was the way in which the film demonstrated that a person who discriminates against others due to racial reasons will not stop there and soon enough continue to act similarly towards others who, on paper, are closer to him.
However, as interesting as Australia Rules is, it is also problematic. While not on the longer side of films, it does take a while to figure out what it's trying to say, and when it does say stuff you're sort of wondering what it's trying to say. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's too unfocused; it aims to high and spreads its shots too widely to hit the target, so while it tells an overall interesting story it does miss the target.
Best scene: Blacky confessing before his aboriginal love interest that his winning move on the football oval was pure luck; he actually tried to avoid the ball. I guess I liked it because it demonstrates how turnkey events can happen just like that, when we least expect them and when we don't mean for them to happen.
Overall: 3 stars out of 5 is more than the Australian Rules deserves, but 2.5 would dishonor it. So let's say it's somewhere in between.