THAT EYE, THE SKY (1994) [Feature]

Australia (MIFF 1995 , Youth Film Festival)
Director: John Ruane

The first adaptation of Tim Winton's work to be made for the screen translates the evoca­tive poetry of his exquisite writing with great faith and subtlety. Amidst shades of Shane The Rainmaker and even Close Encounters comes this fascinating transplanting of the Western mythol­ogy into the harsh Australian landscape.

In a lonely country area, forty-something cou­ple Alice and Sam live with their two kids and aging grandma. Having returned to the land years ago they are now living in the less-than-glorious legacy of a dream that has run its course. When a terrible car crash leaves Sam in a coma, the family is plunged into turmoil and fear. Alice maintains her stoic strength but now has both her incapacitated husband and her senile moth­er-in-law to care for. Ort, her intelligent inquisi­tive twelve-year-old son draws further into himself while his sixteen-year-old sister Tegwyn, all teen angst and sexual confusion, grows ever more bored with her backwater surroundings.

When mysterious stranger Henry Warburton (played by laconic American actor Peter Coyote) arrives at their outback refuge offering calm and enlightenment of many shades, the film's mood of quiet tragedy turns decidedly darker. Ort, a silent observer, reflects on the changes occurring within his home as all the while a strange light beckons to him from high over the house-a light which speaks only to him.

John Ruane's understanding of nuance is the cinematic cornerstone of That Eye, The Sky. He is careful not to strain the fine web of emotions and mysticism that Winton's evocative story hangs on, mindful that not all things need be or indeed can be explained.

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