A flashback to one of Australia’s racist blind spots awkwardly ducks and weaves before landing a killer punch in the warmly expressed Oz meller “September.” Feature bow by Peter Carstairs shows signs of his transition from shorts, but is elevated by a sincere script that’s successful despite many technical obstacles. Pic unspooled in Toronto’s Discovery sidebar and should make room on its calendar for more fest slots. October release in Oz will garner modest arthouse B.O.
Set in 1968 rural Western Australia, just after indigenous Aussies were given citizenship rights in their own country, pic tells the story of the friendship between privileged white farm boy Ed (Xavier Samuel) and unschooled but smart Aboriginal teen Paddy (Clarence John Ryan). The boys set up a makeshift boxing ring and amiably spar, but the country town’s racial tensions raise the stakes and mutual antagonism. Perfs are flat, though Ryan exhibits a photogenic charm. Helming is often pointlessly decorative, and undisciplined handheld lensing is irritating. However, script skillfully draws together its disparate elements and is powerful enough to transcend the film’s considerable limitations. Other tech credits are solid.