Running Time: 101 minutes
Rated: Rated MA 15 + (infrequent strong coarse language)
In recent years catch-all tags like "illegals' and "reffos' have entered the national language. Lucky Miles puts a human face on the stereotypes.
Based on a collection of true stories, the film begins when an Indonesian fishing boat abandons Iraqi and Cambodian refugees in a remote part of the Western Australia. Whilst most are quickly caught by officials, three men with nothing in common but their misfortune and determination escape arrest and begin an epic journey into the heart of Australia. Pursued by an army reservist unit, our three heroes wander deeper into the desert, desperately searching for civilization amongst the stones of the Pilbara.
Lucky Miles is a frustrating film. Because of the power of the splendid performances, we want to like this film, but so many technical things get in the road. There are at least four slow motion scenes, three of which are irritating and distracting.
This film would have been so much better if it the director had been more economical with the material. I know we are supposed to enter into the desperation of refugees aimlessly walking in a foreign land, but it does not need to go for so long. We get it the idea early on.
More economy was needed with the script as well. It is like reading a Bryce Courtney novel - everything that can go wrong does go wrong. There are just too many calamities that happen to our hapless heroes. The screenplay may well be based on true stories, but the telescoping of these events into a single narrative unnecessarily stretches believability. And it does not have to.
The central story here is compelling, a multilayered insight into people's lives who risk everything to come to our shores. It is even handed too. It portrays the people smugglers as evil men callously preying on desperation, while providing complex back stories for those who escape hell for what they hope will be paradise on earth. This includes one man who has rights to claim Australian citizenship.
A special accolade must go to the producers, sisters Lesley and Jo Dyer, for not only bringing this timely story to our screens, but also because what is on the screen tells us how difficult this shoot must have been, the sort of endurance test that only passionate filmmakers could undertake.
Lucky Miles might have its problems, but it is a bitter-sweet comedy about distance, difference and dud maps which, apart from cinema goers, will be a great help to many teachers who want to find a creative way to open up the issues this film explores with students.
This latest Australian film was an understandable winner of the Audience Award at this year's Sydney Film Festival.
Dendy Out July 19
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting