The Sapphires (2012) – Australia

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 12th January 2013
Reviewed as part of Film Critic Circle of Australia Awards Nomination 2012

Australian Box Office Taking: AU$14,198,371

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Director: Wayne Blair
Cast: Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, Chris O’Dowd, Shari Sebbens, More
Screenplay: Keith Thompson, Tony Briggs

Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

“The Sapphires” is a crowd pleasing, sentimental, well-acted and impeccably executed film about four Aboriginal girls going through a period of 70s difficulties, Vietnam war, ongoing racism and the sense of belonging. What made this film a joy to endure is during to the heartfelt performances from the always wonderful Deborah Mailman and a highly underrated and understated display from Irishman Chris O’Dowd (“Knocked Up”). Combining this with director Wayne Blair whose sharp direction, is matched equally with a clever script (Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs), resulting in a film that the audience can identify with, understand and relates towards. This is most likely the most entertaining Australian film of 2012.

Deborah Mailman is simply amazing here as the “mama bear” of the singing girls group, her presence simply lifts the film. Mailman is able to depict a complicated character that is in search of her own identity, being a long way from home and ultimately finding the very soul of her existence. In face of difficulty, you can tell that Mailman is never one to give up and despite her lack of singing or dancing talent, she remains the very core of the group. What I particularly liked, is the manner Mailman and Chris O’Dowd’s character grew to like each other, which is neither forced, but rather they came together due to circumstances of the situation and the need for one another. In particular, Chris O’Dowd has perfected the downplay style of acting and humor, as he simply steals almost every scene he appears. As for the rest of the “Sapphires” girls (Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell) all provides good, natural support.

All in all, “The Sapphires” works because it knows how to score with the audience. The opening scene set the tone and the music simply embraces the audience to search for their own soul. Sure, there are moments in the film that seems to drag on a little, but those moments are far and almost rendered insignificant. Although the film only skim through crucial issues of assimilation, black and white struggles, Martin Luther King and the true atrocity of the Vietnam War, it remains somewhat inspirational. With excellent cinematography Warwick Thornton of contrasting Australian barren countryside and the war torn Vietnam location, “The Sapphires” is also likely to score well with technical awards. I wouldn’t go on and say that “The Sapphires” is a perfect film, but it sets a benchmark for Australian film making and production values. It doesn’t hurt, when you have a good, heart warming and uniquely Australian story to tell in the process. An Australian film to beat for 2012. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 8.5/10

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