2007 - Australia- 104 minutes
Director - Richard Roxburgh
Writer - Nick Drake from a memoir by Raimond Gaita
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars
An astute view of a very unusual man and his relationships with his wife, son, and friends, Romulus, My Father contains a filmmaking mystery for me. While watching this excellent film, I kept asking myself how a boy of only eleven would be able to perceive situations and follow through with actions of someone much older. Having taught numerous eleven year old boys during my career, I found the thoughts and actions of Raimond extraordinary. I put it down to Raimond being a very bright child with wisdom beyond his years. I now find that the real Raimond Gaita was born in 1946, so he would have been fourteen to seventeen years of age during the time of the story rather than the ten to thirteen year old depicted in the film. It is beyond my comprehension why the director chose a younger boy for this part.
Romulus is an Eastern European immigrant striving to make a life for himself and his son in 1960's Australia. He ekes out a meager existence working a small farm and making wrought iron furniture. It is his dream to earn enough to send his son, Rai to private school. Romulus's canon could be "Don't Make Waves" as he perpetually seeks calmness and compliance. This is shown is a small way when he is addressed as "Jack" at a local restaurant. Romulus explains to his son the "Jack" is his Australian name as the locals would be uncomfortable with his foreign name.
Romulus's greatest tolerance comes in his relationship with his wife, Christina. We find that she lives in Melbourne with another man and chooses to occasionally visit her husband and son. She is welcomed by her husband whenever she chooses to visit, and he even quietly accepts that she has had a child with another man who was a good friend to Romulus. In one of the reviews of this film I read, the writer compared Romulus with a saint. No matter the metaphor used to describe him, he certainly behaves in a way not expected of a man whose wife totally rejects his love.
During all this, Rai continues to cherish his mother and even spends time during vacations caring for his half-sibling as well as his mother who suffers bouts of severe depression.
Romulus has a very good friend from his mother country, Hora who visits often and offers whatever emotional support and advice possible. Hora also acts as somewhat of a surrogate father for Rai as Romulus is often detached and emotionally distant. Hora is embarrassed by the fact that it is his brother, Mitru who is the father of Christina's second child and this causes a rift between the brothers.
The acting in this piece quiet and understated and superbly portrays these emotionally bound people.
Eric Bana shows Romulus as a kind-hearted but emotionally closed man who is placed in a situation without a solution. Far more than half of his performance is conveyed through facial expressions and body language, and these leave no doubt as to the storm of emotions boiling in this tortured man.
Christina is given her bi-polar life expertly by German actress, Franka Potente who shows us a woman whose highs and lows make her a fascinating and irresistible character.
Best friend, Hora is portrayed with strength by Marton Csokas, and his weak-willed brother, Mitru, is given life expertly by Russell Dykstra.
Even though he is way too young for the part, Kodi Smit-McPhee gives a memorable performance as Raimond. His talent is clear, but I still continue to be vexed by the fact that the real Raimond was considerably older during the actual events depicted in this film.
Raimond Gaita became a very successful man which is a tribute to the strength of the human spirit. This film is his story, and it expertly shows the genes of strength, moral character, and emotion contributed by his parents as well as the leveling love and maturity given by his surrogate father - all combining to succor the growth of a boy into a man of worth.
April 28, 2008