This review is a continuation of Tomorrow, When The War Began (Part 1: the book).
Tomorrow, When The War Began is a welcome change in direction for Australian movies. After the glory days of Australian cinema with iconic titles such as Mad Max, Crocodile Dundee, and Picnic At Hanging Rock, the industry seemed to spiral into a mire of navel gazing, self-indulgent, and boring films (with the rare exception, such as Kenny) This led to a palpable tension between film makers, who were fighting for their integrity in trying to tell uniquely Australian stories, vs. the critics who were arguing that audiences were becoming disillusioned with local movies that may have artistic merit but aren’t popular and bomb at the box office. Hence the hope is that this big budget production (purportedly $20 million) heralds the beginning of a renaissance in locally-produced cinema.
For that reason, Tomorrow has a very clean, “Hollywood” feel to it; the actors look shiny (glossy, even) and glamorous, and besides Chris’s long drawl during his little monologue, the cast’s accents are fairly neutral (at least to my Aussie-tuned ears anyway – international audiences may very well feel strongly otherwise). Ellie, Homer, Corrie, Kevin, Lee, Fi, Robyn and Chris are all competently rendered by their aptly chosen actors, but what I found disappointing – in spite of what I said above – was that the most important character of all was missing: Australia. The story could almost have been set in a small rural town of any country. Because the script attempted to cram as much of the book’s action into the 103 minute running time as possible, there was precious little time for lingering shots of the beautiful Australian outback, or scenes showing the laid-back, rustic lifestyle of the residents of Wirrawee.
The script is an exacting adaptation of the novel, never quite rising to the level of its source material, and not bold enough to take more than the most trivial liberties to make the story better fit the medium. There’s even a line in the movie where Ellie says that movies are never as good as the book, which didn’t really seem like a joke so much as the writers’ self awareness of the quality of their effort. One particularly low point was a cringe-inducing moment between Ellie and Lee at Chris’s house: the pair are sitting at the window, and Ellie has these few strands of hair in front of her face that she inexplicably neglects, allowing Lee to come in with the stinker “I always used to look forward to geography class” before brushing it aside and kissing her.
Because the script followed the book oh-so-faithfully, there was zero tension for me as I knew exactly what was going to happen next. Jenny quite enjoyed it though, and constantly joined in with the cinema’s refrain of gasps during the pivotal scenes. Maybe if I had watched it with fresh eyes like her I would have enjoyed it much more. Hopefully it does well and brings about a revival of great Aussie movie productions.