Based on author Tim Winton’s book of the same name, director Robert Connolly‘s “Blueback” is a bland coming-of-age film about ecological responsibility. Told in a series of flashbacks, the coming-of-age story spans generations and celebrates the deep blue oceans of western Australia.

Abby (Ilsa Fogg) developed a love for the ocean and all of its creatures as a result of her mother, Dora (Radha Mitchell). Raised on the coast, Abby learned to dive at a young age, a hobby that resulted in her crossing paths with a giant blue grouper that she named Blueback. Over the years, Abby would often head underwater to visit her sea creature friend in the pristine waters of her quiet coastal hometown. Everything changed the day that a fleet of commercial developers showed up and began to wreak havoc, including spearing dozens of protected fish and damaging the coral reef they inhabit. Realizing that Blueback could be in danger, Abby decides to take on the poachers in order to protect the ocean’s species.

It’s a story of compassion and activism, with a heavy dose of optimism. There are nice themes of family, friendship, and the idea that even the smallest action can make a big difference and change the world.
While the film mostly tells the story of Abby as a younger girl, it switches time periods to present day, where an adult Abby (Mia Wasikowska) is dealing with the heavy weight of an aging mother. After Dora (Elizabeth Alexander) has a stroke, Abby rushes to be by her side. She begins to relay the wonderful memories the two shared, including their shared love of the ocean and commitment to saving the world’s coral reefs. It’s calculated and formulaic, but works as a plot device.

This project feels as if it’s made for the environmental film festival circuit. It’s very preachy about the destruction of marine ecosystems, with pushy, in-your-face dialogue about saving the oceans and protecting coral. This is a valuable message of course, but it’s not as powerful as it could have been because the movie doesn’t look beautiful. There are considerable amounts of underwater scenes that have a murky realism rather than stunning shots of crystal clear, beautifully blue oceans. Even the fish is a puppet (admittedly, it does look good).

“Blueback” is just fine for what it is: an uplifting and wholesome movie that will be adored by preteen budding marine biologists.

By: Louisa Moore

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