Drama featured

SXSW Review: ‘The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson’

March 23, 2021Ben MK

Systemic racism, gender discrimination and spousal abuse are among the most pressing issues facing society today. And in the western drama The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, writer-director Leah Purcell tackles all of three of these topics, adapting Henry Lawson's short story of the same name but framing it from the point of view of a half-Aboriginal woman in the late 19th century.

Set amid the sprawling landscapes of Australia's unforgiving high country, the film follows Molly Johnson (Purcell), a strong-willed mother of four who also has another baby on the way. The wife of a drover named Joe (Matt Klarie), Molly is no stranger to being left alone on the homestead with nothing but a shotgun to protect both herself and her children. But when her husband goes missing and a wanted Aboriginal man named Yadaka (Rob Collins) shows up on her property, the ensuing commotion gives way to an inevitable reckoning — one that forces Molly to finally come to terms with the truths about her life and the past that she's been trying to forget.

Following in the footsteps of her own 2016 book and stage play, the movie marks the third time Purcell has adapted Lawson's 1892 tale. Suffice to say, her grasp of the story and its themes are abundantly evident, as the result makes for a worthy addition to the growing list of films out to heal the wounds from Australia's colonial past.

The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson screens under the Narrative Spotlight section at the 2021 South by Southwest Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 49 min.

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