Film Review: The Sapphires

[FIRST PUBLISHED ON THE MODERN WOMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE]

A fun film that manages to celebrate life and covers a range of social, political and racial issues, all while entertaining a diverse audience. Sounds impossible, right? Well, Deborah Mailman manages to do just that in her stunning new Australian film The Sapphires.

Inspired by a moving true story and adapted from a stage play, the film tells a quintessentially Australian tale- following an all {Aboriginal} girls’ group during the 1960s as they strive to make their dreams to become stars come true.

The McCrae sisters, Cynthia {Miranda Tapsell}, Gail {Deborah Mailman} and Julie {Jessica Mauboy} grew up on a remote Aboriginal mission where singing was a huge part of their lives from a young age. They honestly believed country music was the best kind to sing to help them realise their goals. Until, that is, they entered a talent competition and met a boozy Irishman in the music industry named Dave Lovelace {Chris O’Dowd}.

He gives the girls a Motown makeover introducing them to soul music, and it seems their dreams could come true once and for all.  With the addition of a fourth member, a long estranged cousin Kay {Shari Sebbens}, the group undergoes a transformation into the shimmering Sapphires, becoming an instant song and dance sensation. They’re offered the chance of a lifetime playing for the troops in Vietnam.

Filled with fabulous, sparkling ‘60s outfits and a lot of soulful singing that will have you wanting to dance in your chair, The Sapphires not only has elements of comedy, but probes more dramatic and profound themes as well: illustrating the realities of war, the harshness of racism extant in Australia during the time and even referencing the Stolen Generation.

However, overall the film still manages to be uplifting and positive; using the music and classic tracks such as “I’ll take you there” and “I heard it through the grapevine” to impart a sense of joy not only to the soldiers within the film, but the audience as well.

The use of black and white archival footage of the war and of the Aboriginal camps of the ‘60s adds a great effect to the movie, truly emphasising the harsh reality of these situations, especially when juxtaposed against the glamorous entertainment industry.

All of the actors perfectly encapsulate the essence of their characters, and the beautiful vocals only enhance their performances. Deborah Mailman, who is the most experienced of the four leads, plays the majority of the more dramatic scenes and does a truly wonderful job in the way she handles them.

I would give The Sapphires a solid 8 out of 10 stars. It is a great Australian movie that will have you experiencing the widest spectrum of emotions, so have your tissues ready and be prepared to want to dance along to each and every one of the songs.

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