This latest film by Australian director Kriv Stenders (Boxing Day, Blacktown) is set in the Australian bush in 1902, one year after Federation. The opening shot of young Tom (new comer Toby Wallace) proudly reading a patriotic passage from the newspaper to his approving father Nat (Aden Young, Black Robe) is soon undercut by the reality that life in the bush during these times was extremely difficult. After the death of his wife, Nat is left to look after Tom and Tom’s sister Sarah (Hanna Mangan Lawrence, The Square). When three soldiers who had served in the Boer War show up looking for shelter Nat hopes that they may bring good fortune with them. However as the soldiers begin to undermine Nat’s authority over Tom and tempt Sarah with tales of gold, their presence becomes increasingly menacing.
The Australian period setting of Lucky Country and its gothic tone initially create the hope that we are about to be treated to another film of the same calibre as The Proposition. Unfortunately it becomes apparent very quickly that Lucky Country is a poorly written film with obvious characters and boring dialogue that contains far too much obvious exposition. The cinematography is frequently underlit and contains some terrible use of handheld camera. The performances are also weak but then again, none of the characters are particularly interesting so the actors have little to work with. The only exception is British television actor Pip Miller as Henry, one of the three soldiers. He is not only the best-acted character but the most interesting and likeable. Unfortunately as the Lucky Country develops into a horror/thriller film along the lines of The Strangers Henry’s likeability, in comparison to the other characters anyway, completely undermines the film. Perhaps this was a deliberate strategy by the filmmakers to make some sort of existential ironic statement but like most other elements of Lucky County, it doesn’t work.