Review | ‘Blueback’ urges us to protect our local aquatic wonderland

Blueback | Dir: Robert Connolly | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Western Australian author Tim Winton lives in a small coastal town a couple of hours from Perth and is an outspoken critic of ecological degradation that results from human neglect. Many of his widely successful novels are set on the coast and in the ocean.

The novel Blueback is no exception and the film based on that novel, for which Winton also wrote the screenplay, takes the viewer to a small coastal community where ordinary people are fighting powerful developers.

Young Abby (Ariel Donoghue) and her mother Dora (Radha Mitchell) spend much of their time snorkelling in the bay that their house overlooks, and when they meet a friendly wild blue groper, Abby names it Blueback.

Blue gropers can live up to 80 years and can remember the people they interact with, so what better mascot for a family friendly film to convey the message to take better care of the underwater environment? All the fish in the film are real but, for Blueback’s physical interactions with the people, a motorised puppet was specially created for the magical scenes.

Teenage Abby (Ilsa Fogg) watches as her activist mother fights to save the reef outside their property and she paints the marine creatures that are a huge part of her world. Then adult Abby (Mia Wasikowska), a marine biologist working to save the coral of the Great Barrier Reef, has to return to home when her mother suffers a stroke.

Eric Bana as Mad Macka, a fisherman who lives on his boat near the reef, lightens the mood with his larrikin humour and adds a sense of community to the story. All the actors had to free dive in the ocean to 20 metres, so hold your breath as they take you into an aquatic wonderland that is badly in need of our protection.

Blueback will is the first film of Perth Festival’s Lotterywest Films Season at UWA Somerville and will screen from Monday 21 November until Sunday 27 November. Go to for tickets and more information.

Lezly Herbert

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