The 1892 short story by Henry Lawson A classic Australian novel from the late 19th century, The Drover’s Wife tells the story of a woman who lives in a remote rural cabin in the Australian outback. When a snake approaches her hut while her husband is abroad for months at a time herding livestock, she defends her kids. It represented the white settlers’ tenacity and tenacity for years.
However, Lawson’s account omitted to provide the woman’s name. Her only distinguishing characteristics are her marriage, her children, and the snake. Leah Purcell has now updated the narrative with “The Legend of Molly Johnson,” giving the main character a name, a past, and an inner existence.
Purcell first revised the narrative as a novel and a play; she has since written, directed, and starred in a film adaptation of the work. In addition to revealing the woman’s name as Molly, Purcell also demonstrates why the tale merits the designation of a legend. She emphasizes the agency Molly seizes from a system that strives to maintain total control.
The title’s usage of the term “legend” and the Australian outback’s Western-style setting demonstrates the movie’s inspiration from timeless works like “Fort Apache,” “Rio Bravo,” and “The Searchers.” The narrative of the struggle of untamed settlers in an untamed wilderness has a legendary tone, much like those movies.
We hear his wife admonish the British military officer sent to restore order in the region: “While hunting savages in this territory, please do not turn into one.” As that implies, compared to its mid-century predecessors, this movie takes a more critical stance toward issues of masculinity, colonialism, injustice, and abuse.
The closest thing we have to a representative of the filmmaker’s and, she hopes, of our viewpoints is the military officer’s wife, played by the sharp yet sympathetic Jessica De Gouw as Louisa Klintoff. The movie asks us to think about the human strength and the human cost of history while deftly incorporating issues of race, gender, abuse, and historical injustice while making each character truly human.
With her kids, Molly resides in a cottage in a rural area. Her husband is a “drover,” transferring livestock from one place to another, and is frequently gone for months at a time.
Purcell smartly allows close-ups of her own face to speak more about Molly than any action or words could, as well as about who she is, what means to her most, and what led to the development of her look, which alternates between fear and determination. For the first time in the novel, Molly is shown pointing a gun at an intruder.
She has good reason to believe that anyone entering her property is out to harm her and her kids. Her only choice is to aim quickly. She tells one trespasser, “I will shoot you where you stand and bury you where you fall.”
But on that initial meeting, she is the one who seizes. Their way has been taken by a bull. Without hesitation, she shoots it between the eyes and starts cooking for her kids.
The Klintoffs, Louisa and her husband Nate (Sam Reid), who had just arrived from London and were a little overwhelmed by the size of Australia, were the next to arrive, drawn by the aroma of the beef. They convince Molly that they are harmless, and she lets them stay. She decides to trust them with taking her kids to town to acquire supplies as they converse. Additionally, it is ideal for them not to be present because she is going to give birth.
As she gives birth, a second intruder enters. He is an escaped prisoner named Yadaka (Rob Collins), an indigenous person. She is however defenseless, and he offers assistance. She puts her shotgun down. He offers to create the casket and dig the burial once the newborn girl passes away. The baby’s tomb is one of the most dramatic images in a movie that is full of exquisitely crafted and powerful shots. It is placed adjacent to two other graves that depict a father and a child with rudimentary crosses. The name “Mary” was painted on a rock to identify the new one.
Yadaka remains on to assist, and some of the best parts in the movie are when he discusses adulthood with Danny, Molly’s oldest kid (Malachi Dower-Roberts). Nate tries to impose British law in the community since it lacks the customs and cultures that support those laws. Louisa feels ill as she prepares to write about her adventures and observations there.
There are disputes throughout the community, and some of them even make it to Molly’s cottage. She is unyielding and unwavering, but when her children are in danger, we discover how precarious her position is and the extent of the sacrifices she is prepared to make.
Any filmmaker would be proud of the cinematic storytelling in this movie, and Dany Cooper, the editor, and director of photography Mark Wareham deserve praise for it.
But it is amazing that Purcell, who has already told this tale in a novel and a play, was prepared to give up word-based narration in order to have this rendition rely so successfully on images to convey the feelings and specifics.
She recognizes the use of the landscape to frame the struggles of people coping with the hard physical and cultural context, much like John Ford and Howard Hawks. With the help of Lawson’s character, Purcell has given her a name, a past, and a tale deserving of the label “legend.”