“Mrs. Boss, I sing you to me.” – Nullah, Australia
Over the past week, I had been asked several times if I wanted to watch the unfortunately-named Australia. Having heard that the movie was long and draggy, Becca and I had passed up on it. Eventually, though, our mutual love for Hugh Jackman and overall curiosity about the movie itself won us over, and we decided to watch it this afternoon. Setting aside the glaring racial and political bias (the whites were potrayed as either racist or drunk), it was rather worth it, not even because of Hugh Jackman or Nicole Kidman.
Yes, they played the aristocratic English landowner and rough-hewn but oh-so-hot cowboy well enough. But easily the heart and soul of the story was the little half-Aborigine they called Nullah.
What struck me about the little boy from the very beginning was his wisdom, maturity and self-possession, three traits which prove that those who grow up rough, grow up fastest. He learns the skills of his grandfather, the witch doctor of his tribe, and wields them with such confidence that there would never be a doubt in anyone’s mind that he is special, different from the others, and stronger than anyone realized.
I loved the way Baz Luhrmann incorporated Somewhere Over The Rainbow into the movie, and made it into Nullah’s theme. I suppose it was accurate enough; the movie is set in 1939, the same year The Wizard of Oz was introduced to the world on the silver screen. After hearing Lady Sarah Ashley’s (Kidman) half-baked attempts at singing it to him, Nullah learns to play it on the harmonica and makes it his way of connecting with her (not very original, but quite effective nonetheless). The scenes between the two of them were the ones that brought on the tears; Becca, who was seated in the row behind so that we could sprawl ourselves over the two-seater rows, was quite surprised that I actually shed tears in a movie.
The one thing that I loved most about Nullah was his faith — not in religion or spiritually, but in the goodness of mankind and the cycle of life in which everyone, good or bad, will eventually get what they deserve. After being taken away for being a half-caste and sent to a Catholic mission, he holds on to Lady Ashley’s promise to locate him and bring him back to her, even though she is believed to have been killed when the Japanese come a-callin’ after bombing Pearl Harbor.
Nullah channels the beauty of the native race and the belligerence and wisdom of youth, but perhaps the greatest thing about this character, so well portrayed by newcomer Brandon Walters, is that it shows us the other side of mankind that is so often overshadowed by the ignorance and arrogance of today’s cynical, consumer-driven society.