Little Tornadoes review – a stylish portrait of life in the country Australia | australian movie
Ffilms are often praised for their visual interest, but rarely for their verbal interest. In fact, vococentrism is often discouraged, most notably by the famous scriptwriting saying “show, don’t tell.” Director Aaron Wilson’s engrossing period drama Little Tornadoes, however, manages a highly compelling and unusual mix of imagery and an almost romantic storyline – the kind one would expect from Australian author Christos Tsiolkas, who co-wrote with Wilson.
Aided by the timeless qualities of rural locations, Wilson and talented cinematographer Stefan Duscio (whose striking work includes The Dry, Upgrade and Acute Misfortune) illustrate an early 1970s Australian setting with an eye for detail in the lived period. In tone and setting, Little Tornadoes couldn’t be further from an ostentatious historical piece, delving as it does into the life of an extremely dark protagonist, Leo (Mark Leonard Winter), who works as a metalworker in a small town and struggles to manage his wife, suddenly leaving him to raise his two young children on his own.
But the voiceover scattered throughout the film, opening with the narrator’s observations of the differences between life in rural Australia and their former home in Italy, does not belong to Leo or his wife. We are properly introduced to the speaker of these literary-sounding words (“I was told I was coming to a new world when I got here…even the birds sang a different song”) long before running time . While this person’s identity isn’t exactly a spoiler, I’ll let the audience find out for themselves, in the spirit of one of the film’s sweet reveals.
The verbosity of Little Tornadoes contrasts sharply with Wilson’s previous directing effort: 2013’s pretty, almost wordless drama Canopy, about an Australian fighter pilot navigating a Singaporean jungle during World War II. Wilson inserts other verbal flourishes into his new feature, including another woman’s voice that’s supposed to be a memory bouncing around Leo’s head, and a soft, slow cover of Beautiful Dreamer. This melancholic song is overused, but here it’s thoughtfully applied, sounding like a commentary on the small town/big city divide.
It’s not uncommon for Australian films to contemplate small-town life through characters who have to come to terms with things they left behind, often unresolved family disputes (see Simon Stone’s The Daughter , Strange Colors by Alena Lodkina, Return Home by Ray Argall and Hotel by Richard Franklin). Sorrento). In Little Tornadoes, Leo is the person left behind. Winter’s thousand-yard gaze and taciturn counteract the script’s verbosity elsewhere; his exceptional performance – with his beaten dog attitude and defeated bent – painfully aligns body and soul.
Winter internalizes a lot but lets the emotions slip out of him, vividly detailing a man who not only spends a lot of time thinking, but thinking about the worst things that can tear people apart. The more time we spend with Leo’s father, Jim (Robert Menzies), a former POW with PTSD, the clearer it becomes that his inability to deal with pain has been passed on to his son. Such sadness and vulnerability may be hereditary to some extent, but they also belong to a much wider culture of stoicism in Australia.
Wilson builds an intensely thoughtful space to contemplate the mental health of Australian men, especially those who live in rural communities where rates of anxiety, depression and suicide are higher. This is achieved with subtlety, through character and story. While Little Tornadoes is far from light viewing, there’s an elegance to its build that makes it approachable, even enjoyable, to watch. The aforementioned storytelling is part of the reason the film feels like it’s having a conversation with the audience as well as itself – especially its soulful protagonist Leo, who will stick with you.
Little Tornadoes is in Australian cinemas from May 12.