Storm Boy, the novella by Colin Thiele was standard curriculum for many in Australian schools since its first publication in 1964. Even though the author published over 90 books during his career, the story of Hideaway Tom (Jai Courtney), Storm Boy (Finn Little) and Fingerbone (Trevor Jamieson) still manages to capture the imagination of Australians. The tale of the rescue of three pelicans by a young boy and his desire to see them survive in the ever-changing societal landscape still resonates over 50 years after Theile’s work was released.
The story begins in the future when Mike Kingley (Geoffrey Rush) returns from travelling around the world to put his final signature on a contract developed by his company while things have been run by his son-in-law. Upon his arrival at the corporate headquarters, the patriarch realises that things are not going to be as smooth for the company within his own family as he thought. Protestors to the proposed development contract meet Mike at the front door of the company he had run for years and he must face the protests of his own granddaughter, too. During the final negotiations, a storm builds outside the office building and causes a window to break in the meeting room, along with postponing the meeting it causes Mike to remember his life on 90 Mile Beach in South Australia.
As a child, he grew up with his father alone on the island where his father fished and they lived a simple life. Until one day when hunters kill a flock of pelicans and Mike finds a nest of hatchlings. He takes the three birds into his home with the help from one of the only other inhabitants of the island, Fingerbone. The two work to keep the young birds alive and see them grow to be adults, but then the challenge arises, what to do with three full-grown pelicans. Their situation is exacerbated by the rising tension of the local hunters and the people of the community who what to start a bird sanctuary. It is these memories that plague Mike as he comes up against some of the issues that arise from the development he is faced with as an adult.
Diverting from the original tale and adding a conservation theme to the story, Storm Boy does still contain a magical element that will resonate with audiences. Capitalising on beautiful scenery, a strong performance from the newcomer, Finn Little, and good chemistry between Jai Courtney and his young lead, this is a film with all of the earmarks of an appealing family film. There are mature themes and slower pacing that will make this inaccessible for younger viewers, but ultimately it is a beautiful film that should be a welcomed choice for families.
Geoffrey Rush is added in for star power, but with minimal screen time, the Academy Award winner’s role is poignant, but not at the core of the story. The celebrated book’s narrative is best when director Shawn Seet stays on the island with the original cast. A simple coming of age tale of family and caring for God’s creation that will provide families with a great option to start off the cinematic season.
REEL DIALOGUE: It is all about family
Even though this is a coming-of-age story for young Mike Kingley, it will ultimately lead to many discussions about the value of family. Similar to the film, the Bible contains stories of marriage, fathers, family, and infidelity. Thankfully God provides solace and answers to these traumatic and messy events in the lives of people through his words. Showing that in amongst the human condition, there is something for us to rely on that is more reliable than a stranger who lives on the island with you. Look through the passages provided and the answers to this reality of life will unfold on the pages before you.
Trailer for the film