Oyster Farmer: A tale of friendship, family, sex, and shellfish!

Oyster Farmer

Back in the summer of 2005, I read about an Australian foreign film in the New York Times called “Oyster Farmer”.  At the time, I had developed a real fascination with Australian culture, and I had to check out this movie for myself.  I went to an afternoon showing of it at the Quad Cinema in lower Manhattan.  Little did I know what I was in for.

The film tells the story of a young man named Jack Flange (Alex O’Loughlin (though the film credits him as Alex O’Lachlan)) who takes a job as an oyster farmer, working for a tough-as-nails boss named Brownie (David Field) on Australia’s beautiful Hawkesbury River.  He works long hours harvesting the freshest mollusks for Brownie’s business, but he is more concerned about his sister Nikki (Claudia Harrison), who is recovering from an accident at a nearby hospital.  When the hospital bills become too much to bear, he robs A$150,000 from a fish market in Sydney, then mails the stolen loot to himself on the river to avoid the police.  While Jack wrestles with work and his conscience, his life is made more interesting and difficult by a charming, and yet coy girl named Pearl (Diana Glenn), who may or may not have intercepted his stolen money.  Also, Brownie is wrestling his marriage, which has been on the rocks since his wife Trish (Kerry Armstrong) separated from him, and formed her own business which is flourishing, much to his dismay.  Among the odd cast of characters is Brownie’s Irish father Seamus aka Mumbles (Jim Norton), who acts as the voice of reason; the calming yin to Brownie’s raging yang; Slug (Alan Cinis), a bad tempered waste collector who is always looking for trouble; Claudia, Brownie’s recently separated wife who owns her own business and is the thorn in Brownie’s side; and Skippy (Jack Thompson), a grumpy war veteran living in a remote part of the river.  Throughout the film, Jack slowly discovers the family he never though he had in the most unlikely of places, while Brownie tries to make peace with his competing wife, and the romance between Jack and Pearl blossoms.

Director Anna Reeves described “Oyster Farmer” as a love letter to Australia.  In my opinion, love letter is an understatement.  The entire movie is everything that is beautiful, funny, and charming about Australia.  The first five minutes of the film are a treat for the eyes and the ears.  Big sweeping shots of the Hawkesbury River are accompanied by a beautiful musical score filled with the sounds of fiddles, guitars, mouth harps, and didgeridoos.  The biggest star of the movie is the Hawkesbury River.  Located just north of the metropolis of Sydney, just about 30 miles (48 km) or so, the Hawkesbury is amazing natural sight that is unlike any landmass in Australia.  Many Americans associate Australia’s lands with the dry desert of the outback, the thickness of the bush, and the sun-soaked beaches.  While I watched the opening titles, I was treated to a spectacle of Australia that I never knew about.  The rivers and mangroves were reminiscent of the bayous of the American south combined with the sailboat scenery of Long Island, and the rolling hills and forests of New England.  What I found so unique about this film is how few obvious references to Australia were made in the movie.  For example, there were no mentions of kangaroos, crocodiles, or any obligatory shots of the Sydney Opera House.  The closest Americanized reference in this film was a mention of gum, or eucalyptus leaves, made into boots.  It was nice to watch a movie about Australia, and not have it be dumbed down for American audiences.

One more thing I loved was the fantastic cast of characters.  The chemistry between Jack and Pearl was both romantic and kind of sexy too.  It starts out with a little friendly flirting, then some issues over Jack’s robbery complicates things between him and Pearl, especially when Pearl takes a job as a mail-carrier which makes Jack suspects her of taking his stolen package, but it ultimately culminates with a lengthy sex scene between Jack and Pearl in the mangroves, on top of an old pier.  It is full on sex, and tastefully done if I do say so myself, and yet this film was not rated when it was released!  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t develop a little crush on Diana Glenn (Pearl) in the film.

If I could blame the reason for me wanting to visit Australia, I’d would point my finger at this film and smile!  I walked out of the Quad Cinema in awe of a country that I already thought I knew about.  I’d like to say to Anna Reeves, “Thank You” and “Good on Ya, Mate!”  I’m no fan of Oysters, but I am a big fan of Oyster Farmer!

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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