More plaudits for Warwick Thornton’s ‘Sweet Country’ as the Western opens in the US

‘Sweet Country.’

The remarkable run of critical acclaim for Sweet Country continued last week as Warwick Thornton’s period Western platformed in Los Angeles and New York.

Samuel Goldwyn Co. launched the movie produced by Bunya Productions’ David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin at the IFC Centre in New York and the Landmark in LA on Friday, the beginning of a staggered release which will encompass about 40 screens around the country over the next six weeks.

The New York Times’ Jennifer Catsoulis praised the director for constructing a “searing indictment of frontier racism as remarkable for its sonic restraint as its visual expansiveness. The opening shot might be a metaphorical mallet — a cauldron of water slowly coming to the boil while a violent, slur-slathered argument plays out off-screen — but the coarseness is in keeping with the movie’s pointed, symbolic style.”

She continued: “Soulful and still, but never inert, Sweet Country, like its setting, has little time for women’s voices. Yet the movie has a mythic thrust that’s partly due to its almost playful manipulation of time, its silent flash-forwards lending the story a feeling of futility and predetermination.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan hailed the film scripted by David Tranter and Steven McGregor as compelling, uncompromising and a “finely made Australian Western that demonstrates the malleability of that most American of genres as well as the impressive gifts of Indigenous filmmaker Warwick Thornton.”

Turan enthused about the performances by Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Hamilton Morris and Natassia Gorey-Furber and Thornton’s sharp, pointed commentary on relations between whites and Indigenous peoples.

According to Movie City News, the film grossed $US8,800 at the two locations, a decent per-screen average which was higher than many of the titles in limited release.

Simpkin tells IF she is delighted with the latest accolades, noting the film has a remarkably high 94 per cent fresh rating among the critics polled by Rotten Tomatoes.

The film, which has grossed $1.958 million in Australia for Transmission, opens in Canada and New Zealand later this week, with other major markets ahead.

At the Ozflix Independent Film Awards presented in Melbourne on Saturday night Sweet Country was named best film budgeted below $5 million and received the awards for best director, screenplay, Hamilton Morris as best actor, Heather Wallace’s costume design and Nick Meyers’ editing.