Urbancinefile.com - Reviews, February 2002,
By Andrew L. Urban / Louise Keller
*Thanks to Fiona Punal

Synopsis: Based on the true story of three young Aboriginal girls Molly, Gracie, Daisy (Evelyn Sampi, Laura Monaghan, Tianna Sansbury): in 1931 they were forcibly removed from their families at Jigalong WA and taken to a camp 1500 miles away at Moore River to be trained as domestic servants, all part of official Government policy. Molly leads her younger sister and cousin on a daring escape and in a bid to find her way home, following –on foot - the rabbit proof fence that cuts across the Gibson Desert and towards Jigalong. But WA’s Chief protector of Aborigines, A.O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh) does his [misguided] best to recapture them, with help from black tracker David Moodoo (David Gulpilil).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Remarkable for its excellent storytelling, its economical, compressed characterisations and for its profound humanity, Rabbit Proof Fence is an adventure story and history lesson all in one. Of course it’s a political film, but Phillip Noyce’s instincts rely on the humanistic issues, not the political ones, to push our buttons. There is not a moment of political posturing. With three children at the centre of the film, it is surprising perhaps that the film plays as a grown up film, not a family drama. This is partly due to the subject, of course, but perhaps even more, it is the result of the tone set by Noyce. Without hysterics and without cheap sentimentality, Rabbit Proof Fence tells an extraordinary story about three little girls. That’s the drama on which Noyce has focused, and his creative team provide ample support. And that includes the cast – but especially the three young girls, on whose shoulders the film’s success rests. We are perhaps used to seeing child actors deliver credible characters, but rarely from child actors who’d never seen a movie before, let alone act in one. Rest assured, you do not have to make any allowances for them: all three are wonderful, natural, credible and moving. Sweet, too. The oldies also do well: Branagh masters the complexity of a well meaning but misguided A. O. Neville, for whom we feel a pang of pity as well as a touch of resentment. Gulpilil is exceptional as Moodoo, working his minimalist magic; Deborah Mailman is at her usual brilliant best; and Ningali Lawford is heart-wrenching as Molly’s mother. Chris Doyle’s cinematography and Peter Gabriel’s music bring out all the emotional colours of the film, which leaves us satisfied that what we have seen is important, true and of lasting value. And entirely enjoyable cinema.

Review by Louise Keller:
Prepare yourself for one of the most emotionally charged films you're likely to see. Not only is Phillip Noyce's Rabbit Proof Fence an emotional tour de force and gripping entertainment, but it stands proudly as an important social document in Australia's history. True stories are often the most remarkable, and even if you know the substance of the subject matter, you will not be ready for the profound impact it will have on you. But this is not a documentary-like story. Rabbit Proof Fence is an absorbing, moving and heartwarming story to be savoured and enjoyed. A story of determination and courage, Christine Olsen's screenplay rockets straight to the heart and Noyce's gentle and non-compromising handling of this scorching, sensitive issue elevates it into an exceptional film that should not be missed. While the story is about aboriginal children, it could also be a story about any children – black or white - who are lost, hunted or alone. "In spite of himself, the native must be helped," says the Chief Protector of Aborigines (Kenneth Branagh, solid). As he orchestrates the future of the half-caste children from his office and inspects the colour of their skins, families are being ripped apart by the consequence. But it is not the internationally acclaimed Branagh who is the star of Rabbit Proof Fence. The undisputed stars (and happily presented as such) are the three unknown children who allow us to let Molly, Gracie and Daisy into our hearts. Evelyn Sampi, Laura Monaghan and Tianna Sansbury are extraordinary. Their innocent faces, soulful eyes and convincing performances are made all the more remarkable by their total lack of experience and tender years. We are with them all the way as Molly uses her amazing instinct to baffle even the most experienced tracker (David Gulpilil, moving). Through Christopher Doyle's magnificent lens, we journey through the vast Australian landscape, the barren deserts and lonely outposts in the relentless heat of the day, the multi-coloured skies and the hidden shadows of the night. The tempestuous percussive score makes my spine tingle. The ending is as authentic and real as the film, and finally when we meet the real Molly and Daisy at the film's end, I defy anyone not to have a huge lump in their throat.

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