Rabbit-Proof Fence (***1/2)

(2002) Phillip Noyce – Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, David Gulpilil

Synopsis: Set in Australia in 1931, ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’ details the true story (it’s based on a book called ‘Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence’) of three aboriginal girls who were snatched up to be put in “boarding schools” to be taught how to be a good worker in the white world. Not to spoil the story for you, but the three girls take flight from the boarding school and head for home, using the rabbit-proof fence as a landmark to help them find their way. Along their way, they elude the Australian government and an Aboriginal tracker (played by David Gulpilil) working for the government.

Review: RPF is good-hearted, visually stunning, and well-acted; it’s certainly a good, powerful family film. It tells an important story. It’s enjoyable and sobering, both at the same time. Still, you somehow expect more. ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’ isn’t quite a masterpiece. Not particularly close to it, either. The film is solid, to be sure, but basically nothing in the movie is stand-out. In part this seems to be because some of the story is played down—despite some initially chilling conversations, most of the white characters are played as caricatures, and not real people. And while the movie is primarily a story of the three girls’ journey, it seems that a more realistic context could have been given without the story being impinged upon.

Rating: [•••½] out of [•••••]

Etc.: What’s maybe most interesting about Rabbit-Proof Fence is that the director, Phillip Noyce (who, curiously, directed such films as ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Bone Collector’) decided to use non-actors—children who had never acted professionally, or even unprofessionally—for the roles of Molly, Daisy, and Gracie. A decision that was far from casual, and involved (according to the accompanying featurette) a significant amount of toil and trouble.