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Overall Rating
4.37

Awesome65%
Worth A Look: 18.33%
Just Average: 10%
Pretty Crappy: 1.67%
Sucks: 5%

3 reviews, 42 user ratings



Beneath Clouds
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by Andrew Howe

"The rain in my heart"
3 stars

Winner of the Premiere First Movie Award at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival, Beneath Clouds is one of the few feature films to canvass the issues facing the Aboriginal community from an adolescent perspective. There�s nothing local viewers haven�t seen before, either first-hand or on television, but it�ll be an eye-opening experience for anyone who didn�t spend their formative years in Australia.

Lena (Danielle Hall) is the teenaged offspring of an Aboriginal mother and Irish father. She�s justifiably concerned about living out her days within the geographical and educational limits of a small country town, so she hits the road to search for a father she�s barely known. She�s joined by Vaughn (Damian Pitt), an Aboriginal youth who�s escaped from a remand centre to visit his ailing mother, and the bulk of the film chronicles their journey through the Australian interior en route to the bright lights of urban Sydney.

First-time writer/director Ivan Sen knows his subject well, having spent many years in Tamworth and Inverell before moving to Brisbane to continue his studies. He certainly hasn�t forgotten the schoolyard lingo - the dialogue is drenched in the Australian idiom, and every line is invested with the ring of truth. Sen augments the narrative�s veracity with top-notch location work, as the protagonists work their way through a checklist of rural Australian icons (cane fields, country pubs, service stations in the middle of nowhere, and dilapidated highways populated by road trains, choking dust and a couple of weary pilgrims).

Sen�s not shy about advertising his agenda, and the open road provides ample opportunity to canvass the topic of discrimination. He rarely errs on the side of subtlety, but it�s not a subject that�s well-served by restraint. The key scenes range from the resonant (three contrasting hitchhiking episodes are particularly memorable) to the predictable (the inevitable police shakedown), but Sen�s efforts are enhanced by his decision to paint the issues in shades of grey. A wrenching scene where an Aboriginal man abuses his family after an encounter with the law is juxtaposed with the basic humanity exhibited by a patron of a local watering hole, nailing home Sen�s message about the perils of face-value judgements.

The film appears to be targeted at a teenage audience, for while many films invest youthful characters with a wisdom beyond their years Sen resists the urge to use Lena and Vaughn as his mouthpiece. They call it as they see it, and since they lack the wider perspective that might have come from extensive reading or experience their observations are alternately blinkered and insightful. It�s a refreshing change from the portentous moralising that can mar films about important issues, but since nothing much happens for the 88 minute running time it detracts from the overall impact. They argue, they travel, and they argue some more, and while their concerns will speak volumes to viewers of a similar age group it�s considerably less involving from an adult perspective (this should not be taken as a criticism of Sen�s approach, however - we don�t chastise Scorsese for failing to take his ten year-old viewers into account).

The time-honoured independent filmmaker tradition of casting non-professional actors pays the usual dividends � Hall and Pitt were sourced from towns that mirror the film�s locations, and their assured performances are central to the film�s success. They work well together, though their characters� constant bickering is hardly endearing. Sen had better things to do than script a love story (which is just as well, since it would have been trite), and their relationship never extends beyond guarded friendship. It�s a realistic outcome given their disparate personalities, and while our investment in their quest would have been enhanced by a little more bonding and a little less abuse (not to mention evidence of personal growth, which is thin on the ground) it�s difficult to fault a filmmaker for sticking to his guns.

Beneath Clouds is another low-budget Aussie film that delivers the goods, teaming a credible narrative with fine performances and evocative location work. It�s a short, sharp affair, underpinning its measured pace with sparing but effective violence, and since we�ve only scratched the surface of Sen�s concerns I expect we�ll be hearing a great deal more from him in the years to come.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5828&reviewer=193
originally posted: 05/20/02 23:43:14
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For more in the Australian series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/12/16 Dawson Fisher Amazing movie, so real! 5 stars
11/02/15 Tuco spellbinding and resonant , Bravo ! 5 stars
6/21/15 fabulous this film is great as it shows stereotypes aboriginals face 4 stars
8/29/10 coon dumb niggers 1 stars
4/07/10 james terrible movie, dialogue almost put me to sleep and had boring roles and vague ending 1 stars
11/15/07 janelle pitt thats my big brother and i think it is a great film and interesting to watch 5 stars
4/13/07 aglak 22 brilliant film,brilliants actors,beautiful. 5 stars
1/30/07 David fantastic scenes and good actors but could have had a better ending 4 stars
5/29/06 casey boring and sleepworthy but good images and actors 2 stars
5/10/06 jessica great film with powerful messages about trust and identity 5 stars
12/13/05 Noemi Cortejosa Beneath Clouds is a film on Aboriginal identity: Vaughn accepts it, Lena does not 5 stars
11/29/05 Thomas Well done. Really reaches out 5 stars
10/04/05 mark sorensen reality hits home hard 5 stars
9/18/05 Kelly Really, Really bad 1 stars
8/14/05 kailey james it great but the ending isn't 4 stars
1/22/05 Elizabeth Fale Excellent Movie I Love It 5 stars
12/19/04 Ian Henderson One of the best films to come out of Australia recently. 5 stars
7/18/04 cherie hargrave this is very good and its a movie i will never forget 5 stars
4/29/04 - i love it, and its real life not some pitty story. 5 stars
4/20/04 jess booby its fantastic 5 stars
4/14/04 Dylan Williams Excellent Film 4 stars
3/11/04 Raman Arora The movie is very good and emotional, has lot of humour and facts 4 stars
2/03/04 Mandamullin a moving film that juxtaposed country drama and deep realism 5 stars
11/11/03 seb narwal A great movie 5 stars
9/11/03 Liz Innovatively disturbing 5 stars
8/13/03 Cherie Gardiner it was a very good movie cause the car was my sisters boyfriends 5 stars
5/27/03 daniel kane OWEN WAS GREAT 5 stars
5/25/03 Jimi A subtle beauty 5 stars
5/03/03 sami unreal fav movie gotta see it! 5 stars
12/21/02 Lucinda Brilliant! Sven is a genius! 5 stars
11/03/02 robi awesome, touching, objective, deep 5 stars
9/28/02 Peter Sherlock Very very good. An Oz classic. Authentic. Thought-provoking long after. 5 stars
9/25/02 kahlia blair this at the moment is my fave film 5 stars
8/28/02 viking The best Aussie movie of 2002 5 stars
8/22/02 Kjaramindi Dennison It was good 5 stars
8/19/02 vivien xeros the best film i have seen this century 5 stars
8/18/02 Andrew Trigger Fantastic! 5 stars
8/07/02 Michelle Crowther Leaves you feeling like you've been through an industrial wringer. Stunning, fantastic 5 stars
8/05/02 janelle pitt damian is my oldest brother and i'm proud of him 5 stars
6/27/02 Edmond Nixon I intend to follow Sen's upcoming work 5 stars
5/30/02 ^Elendil^ A perceptive and beautiful film. A lot to think about. 5 stars
5/27/02 Ant A film that is both hypnotic and authentic, this is a great and important film. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  14-Jan-2002 (NR)
  DVD: 07-Sep-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  23-May-2002


Directed by
  Ivan Sen

Written by
  Ivan Sen

Cast
  Tristan Bancks
  Danielle Hall
  Damian Pitt



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