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Aussie bloke's exotic love

Unfinished Sky: 91 minutes. Rated: M. Starring: William McInnes, Monic Hendrickx. Director: Peter Duncan

William McInnes in Unfinished SkyPublicity material for Unfinished Sky — an Australian remake of the 1998 Dutch film De Poolse Bruid — spruiks a three-pronged approach. Purportedly, it's 'part social commentary, part dramatic thriller and part tender love story'.

Not all of the prongs are sharp — in fact, two of them are decidedly dull — but in this instance, it's a matter of 'one out of three ain't bad'. As a sweetly observed, cross-cultural love story, Unfinished Sky finds itself on solid ground.

That's primarily because of strong, internalised performances by its two leads. Their interactions are largely unspoken, because their characters don't speak the same language.

Queensland farmer John Woldring (McInnes) is the prototypical Aussie Bloke. His best friends and sole companions are his grotty ute and his blue heeler. For John, pissing off the back porch is a spiritual experience. His idea of romance consists of slow-dancing to Hunters and Collectors on the radio.

The usually fresh-faced McInnes has padded out and grimed up for the role, and is at times unrecognisable behind a face-full of grubby stubble. As the widower John, he broods, and chokes back grief and secrets long since gone bitter. He is a recluse, socially and emotionally.

When Tahmeena (Hendrickx), an illegal Afghani immigrant, stumbles up John's driveway, battered and frightened, his solitary routine is waylaid. She is, to him, exotic in every sense, despite bearing a striking resemblance to his late wife.

John nurses Tahmeena back to health, and as they learn to communicate using what small portions of language they share, affection, predictably, grows.

It's sweet and funny, though not exactly groundbreaking. And so, in an apparent, unnecessary attempt to elevate the story from being 'merely' enjoyable, the co-writers, Kees van der Hulst and director Peter Duncan, employ an ultimately limp social commentary.

It becomes evident that Tahmeena, having fled hardship in Afghanistan and journeyed to Australia in search of her estranged daughter, has been employed as a sex slave in a local brothel. It was here that she received the injuries she bore upon her first encounter with John.

Such slavery and the exploitation of vulnerable immigrants are frightening and present realities in Australia, but in the context of this film they seem tokenistic. There's an inescapable sense that the themes are being exploited not from genuine concern, but in an attempt to lend the film social clout.

Certainly the villains of Unfinished Sky — Tahmeena's former captors, now pursuers — are drawn sketchily at best. Far from providing any kind of meaningful commentary, the film relies on these crude caricatures of evil that ultimately serve no purpose but to provide tepid tension and an incongruously violent final act.

Official website

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street. His articles have been published by The Age, Inside Film, the Brisbane Courier Mail and ASif. He is a contributor to the forthcoming volume American Exorcist: Critical Essays on William Peter Blatty. Email Tim

Topic tags: Tim Kroenert, film review, Unfinished Sky, William McInnes, Monic Hendrickx, Peter Duncan, De Poolse Bruid



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Existing comments

Slavery and exploitation of, particularly, women, is an aberration. Whether it is tokenistic, as you comment on this film, doesn't matter, it is receiving some air play.

We don't all go to films to dissect them but to enjoy them. If they manage to prod our social consciences, albeit in an unacademic way, that's a plus.

The other plus is that it is an Australian film and allows us to identify with the characters and the backgrounds. I look forward to viewing it in the near future.

Pat | 19 June 2008  

I loved this movie ! am obsessed with it have watched it every day this week! I love the story- all of it , how she has brought him out of his misery at the same time has brought her misery at an end too. I just have to keep watching it.Good movie!

Connie Lillich | 16 May 2014  

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