This year, Australian TV drama delivered quality. Without
the ugliness of the Underbelly industry, we have had two major
book-based shows: The Slap and Cloudstreet. The latter's
director, Matthew Saville, also worked on two episodes ('Connie' and
'Harry') of the former, so good on him.
Tim Winton's novel is a solid fixture of many school
English syllabi, making it a familiar friend of many Australians. And
rightly so. A tale of two families (the industrious Lambs and and the
easy-going Pickles) in a 'a living, breathing house' through the
sheltered Menzies era of Australia on Cloudstreet on Perth's rim, close
to the all-important river, is charming, beautiful and elegant.
Told with masterly, relaxed ease, the years go by as two
disparate families live together under one roof. Like their respective
gardens, one prospers through small business (that thoroughly Australian
pursuit so admired by former PM John Howard) while the other succumbs to
games of luck and liquor. Through it all, their children grow up and
confront the world outside and the one inside their unusual home.
Originally airing only on Foxtel's Showcase channel in
three parts, Cloudstreet is presented on DVD in full, lush colour
and sound. The performances are all good, especially the lead matriarchs
Oriel Lamb (Kerry Fox) and Dolly Pickles (Essie Davis is also on The
The two families are united in a poetic and fitting act.
There is ample magic realism (in my opinion, the story would have worked
just swell without talking pigs and mythical, wise indigenous intrigue)
and plenty of emotive moments dealing with life's inevitable stages.
This is a special show about a very particular time and place in
Australia which resonates with the here and now and the world over
through the beauty of its narrative.
Extras seem to be teasers which were on Foxtel. There are
behind-the-scenes and interviews which jarringly get used and reused in
different bonus clips. These include the trailer, Introducing the Lambs
and the Pickles, About Fish, About the Characters, Creating the Music,
From Novel to Script to Screen, Creating the world of cloudstreet,
Creating the Magic, Creating the Sound, and Behind the Scenes.
The sound is Dolby 5.1 or stereo and there are captions
for the hearing impaired and aides for the vision impaired.
I had a great time watching this landmark mini-series and
recommend it strongly.