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Dirt Music film review


Directed by: Gregor Jordan

Written by: Jack Thorne, Tim Winton

Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Garrett Hedlund, David Wenham

Film Review by: Chris Olson


Dirt Music (2021) Film Review

Dirt Music poster
Dirt Music poster

From Tim Winton’s 2001 novel of the same name, Dirt Music stars Kelly Macdonald (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet) as a lost and disillusioned fisherman’s wife-by-convenience (although not married) who seeks escape and excitement in the arms of a brooding local played by Garrett Hedlund (Dreamland, Triple Frontier). Intertwining relationship drama, past tragedies, and competition for the local catch all coalesce and play out against the picturesque Australian landscape.

The isolation of the characters is key to Dirt Music’s story. Georgie (Macdonald) may well be surrounded by locals but none of them treat her as anything other than a newcomer. Lu (Hedlund) is more obviously isolated, a situation he consciously promotes. The two clash into each other and realise that their pasts and indeed fates are linked. A lack of belonging suffocates Georgie whilst a sense of regret drives Lu further into the wilds of Australia.

David Wenham is a scene-stealer here, playing Jim the husband of Georgie, whose role in the events is just as pivotal as the two leads. He captivates with his mild-mannered control and lack of empathy, until a later scene where he bares all.

Macdonald and Hedlund make an engaging pair, with plenty of chemistry and Aussie charm. It’s a shame, then, that the film tries to hit the touchpoints of the story with such precision that the film ends up keeping them apart for so much of their screen time. Repetitive sequences of Georgie trying to find Lu feel exhausting and the slow reveal of what’s haunting the latter feels painfully slow. This culminates in a fairly dry final third where the cinematography took over and forgot about the story or characters.

Where Dirt Music hits the right notes (forgive me) is in the themes, such as the aforementioned isolation and sense of not belonging - even within their own communities. This is reinforced by subtle nods towards racism and classism within Australian culture which adds a rich depth to the film which was not to be undervalued.

Powerful performances and sublime cinematography aside, Dirt Music spends too much time with the elements which don’t work and not enough with the ones that do.

Dirt Music will be available on Digital Download from 19th July


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