MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 19, 2022: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON

Race, feminism, marriage, motherhood, and colonialism are the potent ingredients in Leah Purcell’s grim but powerful Australian drama The Legend of Molly Johnson. Based on Henry Lawson’s 1892 short story The Drover’s Wife, the film tells the story of the titular Molly (Purcell), a strong, independent woman who wants nothing more than to be able to raise her children in peace and safety. But life in the late-19th century outback makes that a very unlikely wish.

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THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON – Review by Sherin Nicole

The British Empire’s predisposition towards planting flags in other people’s living rooms fomented quite a few parallels in history. One of those lies in the colonization of the American Frontier and of the Australian Bush. The seizing of lands, the vilification of the Indigenous populations, and the culture of violence beneath a thin veneer of religion were wrought by men who called themselves pioneers. On paper, other than the accents, it is difficult to tell the two apart (this is sarcasm and yet it is also truth). These parallels are what make the Western such an apt genre for 1893 Australia, but when those wild “western” lands are pitched as a metaphor for Aboriginal Australians and untamed womanhood the genre takes a turn.

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THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Just like her gutsy titular heroine, Aboriginal actress Leah Purcell proves herself to be quite a quadruple threat as the star, director, writer and co-producer of The Legend of Molly Johnson. Set in 1893 and based on Henry Lawson’s short story The Drover’s Wife, the film is set in raw and brutal outback in Australia. Purcell portrays an indigenous woman whose husband is often far away from home as he accompanies a herd of sheep across the high country.

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THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON – Review by Leslie Combemale

Purcell’s story takes the Australian romantic myth of frontier freedom and egalitarianism for all, and blows it to smithereens, giving audiences a bleak look into the challenges for indigenous people and women of the time. She is also up to the task as a performer to make Molly, a powerful, stoic survivor, completely believable, and her character someone for whom the audience wishes more than just suffering and survival. Molly is the ultimate mother archetype, and as such arouses our deepest feelings of empathy and compassion.

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Intersectionality at SXSW 2021 – Leslie Combemale reports

This year at SXSW there are a number of powerful female filmmakers of color who are shining a light on important social issues both through narrative and documentary films, employing women of color in front of and behind the camera. They are an inspiration not only for their commitment to diverse voices, but also for creating great content worthy of our attention. Here are some of the best offerings at the fest you can see right now.

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THE DROVER’S WIFE: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON (SXSW 21) – Review by Leslie Combemale

In Australia, the first laws against domestic abuse were passed in the 1970s. Back in the 1800s, it wasn’t seen as a crime. That’s the era in which Indigenous writer/director/lead actor Leah Purcell’s film The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson takes place. The film takes the Australian romantic myth of frontier freedom and egalitarianism for all, and blows it to smithereens, giving audiences a bleak look into the challenges for indigenous people and women of the time.

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THE DROVER’S WIFE: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON (SXSW 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

It might be hard to watch The Drover’s Wife and resist the temptation to draw parallels with Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale. Like The Nightingale, the film pivots around the relationship between a man and a woman from very different cultural and social positions based largely on their perceived race. Gendered violence and a revenge also feature heavily, but The Drover’s Wife deviates from The Nightingale significantly if only due to their very different histories, both in terms of their productions and their broader cultural legacies.

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