East of Everything, Bed of Roses and Rainshadow have all focussed on rural matters. City-based stories such as those in Bastard Boys and Hell Has Harbour Views are becoming few and far between. In this telemovie starring Rhys Muldoon, we are again transported back on the land, this time in Rushworth, regional Victoria.
While passing through the town, Ben Valentine (Muldoon) finds himself on the wrong end of the law, but when the judge hears he has a sports background, he is given community service: to coach the local footy team, the Growlers. As with any “battler’s” tale, they aren’t much good. They haven’t won a game in ages and if their fortunes don’t change swiftly they will be forced to merge. And worse, they will lose the local pie factory they inherited, Dick’s Pies.
The fragile community pins its hopes on Valentine’s ability to make a miracle happen fast, and as is the hallmark of this genre, to his surprise he lands an early result. Just as feature films have had heroes resurrect knockabout groups of strippers, choirs, big bands and tap dancers, this Aussie tale charts a similar route, via Aussie Rules. There’s even a local rock band thrown in the mix.
It benefits most from a strong team of character actors, including Terry Norris, Roy Billing and Adam Zwar. Their expressions tell stories without the need for any words. In fact, there are many familiar faces here giving life to the small town’s dreams. Anita Hegh and Michael Tuahine anchor the drama in between the film’s lighter moments.
Writer Peter Temple has penned an unabashedly feelgood story that isn’t afraid of being a true-blue Aussie yarn. While it isn’t loaded with burning moral questions, if you love unassuming stories about underdogs this should kick a goal.