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Starring: Adam Garcia, Sam Worthington, Sophie Lee
Director: Dein Perry
Rated: M

AUSTRALIAN dance films are very rare, but when they come, they are equally unusual.

Strictly Ballroom was one, Bootmen is the latest.

Bootmen is about two brothers, Sean (Adam Garcia) and Mitchell (Sam Worthington) who, thanks to their now deceased mother, learned to tap dance as boys. They work with their widower father (Richard Carter) in the steelworks at Newcastle.

Sean dreams of returning to the stage. Mitch wants to own a rig. Both of them fall for Linda (Sophie Lee). Sean blows his big dancing break in Sydney. Mitch turns to crime to raise some capital. Linda becomes pregnant to one of them. Sean returns to Newcastle and forms Bootmen, a new tap dance ensemble.

Bootmen is a long way from Fred Astaire in Shall we dance? It is a little like Broadway Melody meets grunge. It portrays working men pushed to the edge of their grief, hopes, ambitions, the law and their employment. The drama is tough, gritty and the frequent coarse language, as real is it is, will offend some people.

First-time film director and former fitter and turner, Dein Perry comes from Newcastle and directed the stage hits Tap Dogs and Steel City. One gets the sense he knows what he is doing with this story in this location.

Perry’s story has a few surprises and just when the audience thinks the film will jolly along to a successful ending, we get an excellent dramatic turn. Bootmen ends up a deeply moving film.

The dance sequences are exciting to watch, but even more interesting to listen to. The sound textures are rich and gripping.

Women are the big losers in this film. Their roles are either as unseen, adored, deceased mother, dominating girlfriend or pregnant beauty queen. While Bootmen has every right to be a “blokes” film it would have been better if writer Steve Worland, had given just one of the women something more to do than giggle, cry, get drunk, get pregnant and adore the men.

Adam Garcia is a great find. His dancing is better than his acting, but his natural and emotional rapport with the camera sells most scenes.

Bootmen is a hard and fine Australian film, convincing us that tap dancing is this world’s last bastion for blokes – that is an unusual idea!

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