Review: Blueback

Written and directed by Robert Connolly, co-written by Tim Winton, follows Abby, a child who befriends a magnificent wild blue grouper while diving. When Abby realizes that the fish is under threat, she takes inspiration from her activist Mum, Dora, and takes on poachers to save her friend. Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Ilsa Fogg, Radha Mitchell, Eric Bana, Pedrea Jackson, Clarence Ryan, Ariel Donoghue, Albert Mwangi and Elizabeth Alexander.

You can never truly go wrong with the endless beauty that the ocean has to offer, the colours, the wildlife, the tranquillity, what’s not to love?. It opens with a classically family friendly feel, it’s all very accessible, sweet and engrossing. The story plays out with its heart as fully on its sleeve as it possibly can and while with some films that can become too saccharine, it actually works with Blueback. A big part of that is how Robert Connolly and Tim Winton create these characters, they’re wholesome and kind yes but they also have strength, resilience, intelligence and a refusal to back down. That’s what makes the balance of this film work so well, it’s reaching out to that generous spirit but also keeping its message about conservation running strong. It could be stronger but it’s done in a way that allows it to connect with a much younger audience.

A big part of its charm is the performances, occasionally when you have familiar names in a project like this they tend to appear and disappear while everyone else takes the limelight but thankfully that’s not the case here. Mia Wasikowska takes a nice amount of screen time as Abby and is a joy to watch, she’s always had such a wonderful presence and has a great track record with the indie films she’s appeared in. Ilsa Fogg does a superb job as the younger version of Abby, she has plenty of naivety and nervousness of youth but a strong spirit. Radha Mitchell as her mother Dora is another terrific addition, capturing the larger frustration about the damage to their beloved sea creatures. Eric Bana may appear more briefly but he has a fantastically gruff charisma, a classic example of rough with a soft centre, a book not to be judged by his cover.

The direction and locations are definitely another element which helps to keep its feet basking in sentimentality but not drowning in it. It’s undeniably a stunning part of the world and makes the most of those fantastic underwater shots. The brightness and vitality of it is slightly infectious. There’s some stellar editing work to mix the different timelines of the story together seamlessly, it never feels back and forth, there’s a cohesive path to the journey. Granted, it is also fairly predictable and does go a touch saccharine with its ending but neither of those takes much away from the film as a whole.

If you’re a fan of family cinema and 2012’s Big Miracle, then Blueback is without question the film for you. It’s sweet and charming with a nicely strong message about conservation and preservation. There’s a strong cast at work who truly push that endearing feel even further. It is pretty much what you expect to be but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you want a hopeful, easy watch for the entire family, then you can’t go wrong with this one…unless your children are afraid of fish.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Available only in THEATERS from March 3

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