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TRAVELLING LIGHT

Starring: Pia Miranda, Sacha Horler, Tim Draxl, Brett Stiller, Heather Mitchell
Director: and written by Kathryn Millard
Rated: M15+

SET in Adelaide in 1971 when the ‘City of Churches’ was a cultural desert, Travelling Light is a probing, gentle satire about the way we were in Australia before flower power and the dawning of the ‘Age of Aquarius’.

The story focuses on Leanne (Pia Miranda) and Bronwyn (Sacha Horler), two sisters raised by their parents, Don and Betty (Marshall Napier and Heather Mitchell), in Adelaide’s stultifying suburbs.

Since childhood the two sisters, now in their early twenties, have lived next door to their friend Gary (Tim Draxl), who works at the local television station.

But on the very cusp of change, all three yearn for something more.

Leanne is a trainee teacher at the local high school, who aches to become a photographer and break free. Gary, still living at home with his mother, is beginning to question who he is, while Bronwyn, newly married to a schoolteacher, Brian (Tamblyn Lord), and forced to live in the country, is feeling trapped in a marriage from which there seems to be no escape.

Then along comes Lou (Brett Stiller), an American beat-poet who transforms all their lives.

Travelling Light boasts strong performances from a cast that includes some of Australia’s finest young actors, and Luigi Pittorino’s re-creation of the seventies feels and looks just right. But one might have expected a film about Australia on the cusp of radical change to have more biting satire, and perhaps a brisker pace.

There are amusing moments, as when Simon Burke, playing the obnoxious host of the nightly television show ‘Adelaide Tonite’, spoofs the reign of early television ‘kings’ such as Graham Kennedy and Ernie Sigley. However, the film works best when paying gentle homage to the past, while at the same time drawing attention to the often suffocating strictures imposed upon women before the advent of ‘women’s lib’.

Both Betty and Bronwyn are shown as women teetering on the brink of nervous breakdowns, and Millard’s script is strongest when delineating the fine line that separates true mental illness from the sheer misery of being pigeon-holed.

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