The Shiralee (1987 film)
|Directed by||George Ogilvie|
|Produced by||Bruce Moir|
|Written by||Tony Morphett|
|Based on||novel by D'Arcy Niland|
|Distributed by||Channel Seven|
|November 1987 (UK)
26 June 1988 (Australian TV)
It was originally filmed as a mini series and was shot in Adelaide and Quorn, South Australia.
The plot revolves around an itinerant rural worker and fighter named Macauley —sometimes described as a “swagman” or “swaggie” who unexpectedly finds himself taking responsibility for his child. The film contrasts the harshness of Australian masculinity with a parent-child relationship.
On one of his infrequent visits to his wife Marge in Adelaide, itinerant bushman Jim Macauley (Bryan Brown) finds her living with another man, Donny. He beats Donny up, grabs his five-year-old daughter Buster (Rebecca Smart), and returns to the road. They walk from job to job in rural South Australia, camping beside riverbanks, until Buster becomes sick with fever. Desperate for help, Macauley takes her to a station where he’s not welcome, run by a grazier named Parker. Macauley learns that years earlier, he made Parker’s daughter Lily (Noni Hazelhurst) pregnant. She lost the baby and almost died.
Macauley takes Buster to the next town, where he’s welcomed by old friends Bella and Luke Sweeney. He tries to get the child to stay with the kindly Bella, but she refuses. In Quorn, Marge tracks them down and tries unsuccessfully to take back Buster. In another town, while Macauley is courting a pretty girl, Buster is hit by a car. As she battles for her life in hospital, Macauley must dash to Adelaide to oppose his wife’s court bid for custody of the child. He beats the case by threatening to expose his ex's relationship with Donny; Donny forces Marge to choose between him or the child, who it emerges she never had any intention of caring for. She was seeking custody only to spite Macauley.
Mac returns to the hospital by train, arriving shortly before Buster opens her eyes in hospital. The film ends there, but there is an implication that he may reconcile with Lily, who also loves Buster and still has feelings for Mac.
The mini series rated 40 points and was the most popular Australian show of the year.
- "Australian Productions Top $175 million", Cinema Papers, March 1986 p64
- Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p234
- Robin Oliver, "The Guide THE RESTLESS YEAR", Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 1988 p 1