The Drover’s Wife (2021) is a powerful, incisive movie that tells the story of a lonely bushwoman who struggles to raise her children and run the family farm while her husband is away. The movie is both a touching portrait of a mother’s love and a searing indictment of the isolation and racism that continue to plague rural Australia.
Leah Purcell (who also wrote and directed) gives a powerhouse performance as the title character, bringing both strength and vulnerability to her portrayal of a woman who is fighting for her survival in a hostile environment. Rob Collins, as Yadaka, the Indigenous drover who comes to her aid, is also excellent, and the two have a great chemistry on screen.
The cinematography by Mark Wareham is breathtaking, and the Australian landscape is captured in all its harsh beauty reflecting the harshness of what first nation people had to endure following white settlement. The Drover’s Wife is a slow-paced movie, but it’s never dull. Purcell takes her time to develop the characters and their relationships, and the result is a deeply moving film that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
The soundtrack by Salliana Seven Campbell is also worth mentioning. It’s haunting and beautiful, and it perfectly complements the mood of the movie although, on just a few occasions, it didn’t quite resonate, for me, with what was happening on screen.
The Drover’s Wife explores many themes in multiple layers. For example, the relationship between the drover and his wife is complicated by the fact that he is away for long periods of time, and she is left to fend for herself and their children. There’s also the issue of race, as Yadaka is constantly reminded that he is an outsider in a white man’s world. And then there are the themes of isolation, both literal and metaphorical, as well as the tyranny of distance.
Purcell has said that she wanted to make a movie about love, loss, grief, and country. And she has succeeded admirably. The Drover’s Wife is a stunning achievement. It’s must-see.
(In cinemas in Australia – check your movie guide for your local show times.)