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:: Oyster Farmer

Oyster Farmer follows the adventures of Jack, a city boy who moves to an isolated oyster-farming community in the Australian countryside. I was expecting the predictable old story of a pretty city boy battling the prejudice of townsfolk in a rural community. The film has elements of this, but is full of surprising twists, sub-plots galore and quirky characters. Most of all, there are so many laugh-out-loud moments of great Australian humour I have no hesitation recommending this as one of the best films I've seen this year.

Within the first few minutes of the movie Jack robs a fishery and then frustratingly loses the money. He then spends most of the movie trying to get it back and in the process develops relationships with the townsfolk. He has a romance with the mysterious Pearl who is the only person in the town to wear ‘real shoes’ - not just thongs. Many of the characters have secrets and the suspense is sustaining, but the film manages to stay light-hearted. Jacks' colleague, the slightly senile Mumbles, steals the show with beautifully scripted one-liners, and his surly boss Brownie delivers plenty of rough laughs.

There are a couple of big Australian names in the film but mostly it's an unknown cast. Jack Thompson plays Skip, the crazed Vietnam veteran who Jack confides in. Kerry Armstrong helps address small-town sexism in the strong-willed character of Trish, Brownie's estranged wife. The main roles are performed by newcomers Alex O'Lachlan and Diana Glenn as Jack and Pearl, and their naturalistic performances prove they will be around for some time. O'Lachlan looks to be designed as the next Australian heat-throb as he manages to stay half-naked for most of the film to the appreciation of the female characters.

Oyster Farmer manages to balance great acting with more subtle film techniques, rounding off the film perfectly. Jack's evolution from charming but untrusting thief to a genuine member of this small community is helped by a strong soundtrack, twanging tensely at the start of the film and fading into gentle river noises as Jack becomes more comfortable with his tranquil surroundings. The charm of the rural community is juxtaposed to the modern train running past noisily in the distance, an occasional reminder of the bustle of life outside the oyster farm.

See it.