Written by Guillermo Troncoso.
Satellite Boy tells the story of Pete (Cameron Wallaby), a ten-year-old boy who lives with his grandfather, Jagamarra (played by classic Indigenous actor David Gulpilil), on an abandoned open-air cinema in Outback Australia. When his home is threatened with demolition, Pete and his best friend Kalmain (Joseph Pedley) decide to make their way to the city to convince the construction company otherwise.
Catriona McKenzie has written and directed a likeable film that deals with a young boy’s quest for identity. Young Pete constantly clashes with the Indigineous ways of his grandfather. The film focuses on the confusion that can arise in young people who are torn between two cultures. This is a simple coming-of-age flick that uses the “journey” plot-device to speak on this culture’s connection, or even disconnection, with the land.
The two young leads are very good. They aren’t professional actors at all, yet they bring a charming innocence to their characters that ensures we are with them every step of the way. David Gulpilil is, as usual, very good. His performance as an elderly man who sees his grandson’s struggle with identity is both bittersweet and utterly convincing.
Unfortunately, this amiable film is lacking a key factor: dramatic pull. Geoffrey Simpson’s cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and the aforementioned acting is wonderful, but the film fails to really grab you in the way it should. This probably has to do with the overall languid, peaceful style in which McKenzie has chosen to tell her story. In no way is there a problem with that style as a whole, but there has to be dramatic peaks to keep us wanting, or at least driven, to see what’s around the corner. Instead, you can see the story unfolding a mile away and are slightly disappointed when it occurs exactly how you predicted.
Catriona McKenzie has crafted a great looking coming-of-age film that doesn’t have the power it should. Satellite Boy is likeable and sweet, but you won’t be remembering it long after you’ve seen it.
THE REEL SCORE: 6/10.
Satellite Boy opens in Australia 20 June, 2013.