Australian Rules begins as a funny and detailed portrait of teenage life in a rural seaside town - a colourful, modern Australian cousin to The Last Picture Show, with an anti-racism theme.Nathan Phillips and Luke Carroll share a natural rapport as the white Blacky and indigenous Dumby, footballers whose mateship transcends race. There’s also a strong supporting cast of adults, including Kevin Harrington as a dim-witted coach and Celia Ireland as Blacky’s mum. Lisa Flanagan is appealing as Blacky’s indigenous girlfriend, but their Romeo-Juliet love story is underdeveloped.
Director Paul Goldman collaborated with Phillip Gwynne on the screenplay (adapting and expanding Gwynne’s novel Deadly, Unna?). He packs too much incident into the final 45 minutes and the easy flow of the first half is disrupted. When everything is wrapped up neatly at the last minute, the characters and events lose credibility.Australian Rules no longer feels like real life, just a contrived film story. And, endearing as Phillips’ emotional vulnerability made him, I tired of the author-surrogate hero’s flawlessness.