Adapted from a best-selling Australian novel and featuring a stellar cast including Toni Collette, Hugo Weaving, Levi Miller, Angourie Rice, Dan Wyllie and Aaron McGrath, Jasper Jones is the story of Charlie Bucktin, a bookish boy of 14 living in a small town in Western Australia. The Retiree‘s film critic, Sebastian Briguglio explores the small town story beautifully brought to life on screen.
Jasper Jones tells an interesting tale, for those loosely familiar with the novel written by author Craig Silvey (who came on to write the script), you may think you are stepping into an Australian take on the classic murder mystery story – but this film, directed by Rachel Perkins (Mabo & Bran Nue Dae) offers you so much more than just it’s plot.
The story we are told is foremost a comedic one, framed through the eyes of young Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) – but delves into sensitive issues like racial discrimination, infidelity, love and most importantly the trust in ones friendship. These issues form together to create a fierce celebration of the Australian condition of the 1960s.
The film begins by painting a picture of the quaint town of Corrigin in Western Australia – soon after that we are engrossed in the films mystery as Charlie is approached in the middle of the night by Jasper Jones (Aaron L. McGrath), a pariah of the mining towns community, and asked to come with him into the nearby forrest. It is then that Charlie is confronted with the sickening sight of Laura Wishart’s body – and reluctantly agrees to help Jasper find out who was responsible for her death.
One of the films main strengths comes from it’s casting – all of which deserve full mention, but for the sake efficiency I will focus on the main family unit surrounding Charlie. His mother Ruth played by Toni Collette gives an absolute masterpiece of a performance where you will find yourself lost on whether or not you can side with her at any given moment of the film. Where on the other side of the spectrum we have Dan Wyllie, who more than nails his portrayal of Charles father Wes, offering a genuinely emotional approach to what is normally reserved for a machismo heavy role in other films.
Visually the film is nothing short of stunning, showing off the very best that Australia has to offer, while never making the landscape feel overbearing. We are treated to the more minimalistic natural beauties, reminding us that just because a film is set in Australia doesn’t mean you have to set it in a baron wasteland. The town of Corrigin itself comes across as it’s own character, at points you will both love it and hate it as it is shown to be it’s own living creature – a feat normally forgotten by most other crime stories – which allows us to fully be engrossed by the narrative has to offer.
This film is the case of the perfect storm, all the right choices were made – whether it was on the cast (yes, all of them), the location, the writers and the director – everything came together and it came together right.
Jasper Jones is an obvious recommend from me, and I honestly can’t wait for it to come out nationally so I can go see it again.