BootmenAdam Garcia, Sam Worthington, Sophie Lee.
Running Time: 93 mins
Rated: M 15+
Australian dance films are very rare, but when they come, they are equally unusual. "Strictly Ballroom" was one, "Bootmen" is the latest.
Bootmen is about two brothers, Sean (Garcia) and Mitchell (Worthington) who, thanks to their now deceased mother, learnt to tap-dance as boys. They work with their widower father (Richard Carter) in the steelworks at Newcastle.
Sean dreams of returning to the stage. Mitch wants to own a rig. Both of them fall for Linda (Lee). Sean blows his big dancing break in Sydney. Mitch turns to crime to raise some capital. Linda becomes pregnant to one of them. Sean returns to Newcastle and forms Bootmen, a new tap dance ensemble.
Bootmen is a long way from Fred Astaire in "Shall we dance?" It is a little like "Broadway Melody" meets Grunge. It portrays working men pushed to the edge of their grief, hopes, ambitions, the law and their employment. The drama is tough, gritty and the frequent coarse language, as real is it is, will offend some people. First time film director and former fitter and turner, Dein Perry comes from Newcastle and directed the stage hits Tap Dogs and Steel City. One gets the sense he knows what he is doing with this story in this location.
Perry's story has a few surprises and just when the audience thinks the film will jolly along to a successful ending, we get an excellent dramatic turn. The emotional energy from there on is successfully heightened, the characters really develop and the audience cares what happens to them. Bootmen ends up a deeply moving film.
In the stage show Perry set the dance world alight by taking tap off the porcelain shelf and exploring the form's sound scapes as much as its visual style. It was innovative and exciting, in a testosterone sort of way. Bootmen is the same. The dance sequences are exciting to watch, but even more interesting to listen to. The sound textures are rich and gripping.
Perry's cinematic team keep pace with his dancing innovations. Steve Mason's camera angles are quirky and effective. Jane Moran's editing is assured. Cezary Skubiszwewski's music and sound track are loud and sit well with the pictures.
Women are the big losers in this film. Their roles are either as unseen, adored, deceased mother, dominating girlfriend or pregnant beauty queen. While Bootmen has every right to be a 'blokes' film' it would have been better if writer Steve Worland, had given just one of the women something more to do than giggle, cry, get drunk, get pregnant and adore the men.
It is very difficult to get an actor who is both a good dancer and a good actor. Adam Garcia is a great find. His dancing is better than his acting, but his natural and emotional rapport with the camera sells most scenes. Sam Worthington is suitably surly and awkwardly tender and so demonstrates a fine dramatic range. Richard Carter as the boys' father strikes the right balance throughout.
Bootmen is a hard and fine Australian film, convincing us that tap dancing is this world's last bastion for blokes - that is an unusual idea!
Richard Leonard SJ