Retro Reviews: Romulus, My Father

Eric Bana, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Maddison Gargiulo in a scene from Romulus, My Father

Eric Bana, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Maddison Gargiulo in a scene from Romulus, My Father

Based on the biographical memoir of Australian philosopher Raimond Gaita, Romulus, My Father tells of the misfortunes Raimond (Kodi Smit-McPhee) suffered in 1960’s Australia as his father, Romulus, (Eric Bana), struggled to bring him up during a time of adversity. As a hard-working migrant farmer outside of Maryborough, Victoria, Romulus had a great determination to raise his son right.

This is made even more difficult when Raimond’s mentally unstable mother, Christine, (Franka Potente), would intermittently come back into their lives. Over time Christine finds love with another man and Romulus begins to experience his own mental deterioration which causes distress between himself and his son.

It’s baffling that Richard Roxburgh hasn’t directed a film since his 2007 debut. While we’re still being treated to his remarkable acting talent in films like The Turning, and on TV with Rake, it’s his aptitude as a director film lovers want more of.

“You will be measured as a man by your work. A man’s work is his dignity.”

Roxburgh directs his film with a no-fuss style. But that’s not to say he doesn’t pay the utmost attention to detail. With his costume designer, Jodie Fried, and cinematographer, Geoffrey Simpson, he’s managed to bring Gaita’s story to life with so much authenticity.

At the heart of the film is a brilliant cast which brings an emotional and heartbreaking depth to the characters. Bana and Potente are brilliant in their rolls but it’s Smit-McPhee who leaves a lasting impression as a young boy who, for a time, was left alone and isolated on his remote farm.

Eric Bana told Cinema Australia on working with Smit-McPhee, “Kodi was fantastic. It was one of those interesting moments when you’re watching an actor with a great natural talent prior to them being overtaken by technique. Working with Kodi was a great thing to experience and Richard worked really, really well with him. Richard had a great way with him and he was such a lovely kid. Raimond was such a wonderful character for him to play. I felt very blessed that we found Kodi and that we managed to capture him at that point of his career. It was really special.”

Romulus, My Father is an Australian gem with the whole package and will be enjoyed by many generations to come.

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