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REVIEW: Truth, race and justice explored in Jasper Jones

Aaron L McGrath and Levi Miller in a scene from the movie Jasper Jones.
Aaron L McGrath and Levi Miller in a scene from the movie Jasper Jones.

I DON'T think I've ever felt proud to see a movie.

But sitting in a darkened cinema as the opening credits for Jasper Jones rolled, my heart swelled.

This little Aussie story has been faithfully adapted from page to screen and no doubt will win over a whole new bunch of fans.

Craig Silvey's book was one of the first I read when I started university and the story of a persecuted Aboriginal teenager and a quiet boy who sees injustice in the world has stayed with me ever since.

The film centres on how the disappearance of a young woman erodes the social fabric of a small town.

Levi Miller stars as Charlie Bucktin alongside Kevin Long as Jeffrey Lu in a scene from Jasper Jones.
Levi Miller stars as Charlie Bucktin alongside Kevin Long as Jeffrey Lu in a scene from Jasper Jones.

Because I suck at getting my life together, I didn't get a chance to re-read the book before the film.

But from the opening scenes, this film really mirrored the small town I had pictured.

This translation from page to screen was no doubt so seamless because Silvey co-wrote the screenplay with Shaun Grant.

Corrigin is the quintessential 1960s Aussie town.

From the cars and cottages to the town hall and local cricket match; there's a real nostalgia to this film I'm sure every Australian who's lived in a regional or rural area can relate to.

Of course, in perfecting the setting, Silvey has also highlighted the uncomfortable issues which still haunt our nation.

Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) and Jasper Jones (Aaron McGrath) seek to solve the mystery in the film Jasper Jones.
Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) and Jasper Jones (Aaron McGrath) seek to solve the mystery in the film Jasper Jones.

The persecution of Jasper, seemingly the town's sole Aboriginal inhabitant, and the aggression towards the Vietnamese Lu family were elements of the plot which all too easily align with contemporary political issues.

In telling this story, Silvey hasn't shied away from these things.

There were several confronting scenes, but the sparse use of outright displays of bigotry combined with the subtle undertone of racism and xenophobia only served to highlight their power within the story.

Levi Miller, Aaron L. McGrath and Angourie Rice were standout performers in their respective roles of Charlie, Jasper and Eliza.

Jasper Jones (Aaron McGrath), Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) and Eliza Wishart (Angourie Rice) in a scene from the film Jasper Jones.
Jasper Jones (Aaron McGrath), Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) and Eliza Wishart (Angourie Rice) in a scene from the film Jasper Jones.

Toni Collette and Dan Wyllie were superb as Charlie's parents, and I just loved the few snarky asides they snuck into what is really quite a serious film.

Likewise, Hugo Weaving was absorbing as Mad Jack Lionel. But my favourite character was, as in the book, Jeffrey Lu played by Kevin Long. He brought much needed comic relief to a heavy story.

I loved every second of Jasper Jones. This has been described as our To Kill a Mockingbird, but I think to even make the comparison diminishes Jasper Jones as an incredibly well-written story in its own right.

I couldn't help feeling so proud of this little Aussie story which has been adapted so sensitively and faithfully. This is a film that deserves your attention, so go and show it some love.

Topics:  book cinema film jasper jones movie



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