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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 09.30.13] Australia drama



Under the cover of night, a woman gives birth to two sons. The first is a healthy screaming boy but the second is stillborn. Rather than being happy at having one healthy child grandma Taitok demands the death of the healthy boy who, in a moment of elation, she nicknamed "Big Balls." Village superstition claims that when twins are born, one is good luck and one is bad and with one of the children dead, there's no telling which is which. Out of love for her son and his wife, Taitok concedes to the pleas of her daughter-in-law and in the darkness they dispose of the body of the dead child, hiding the fact that Ahlo was a twin.

Though it opens like a horror movie, complete with storm which shakes the world, Kim Mordaunt's The Rocket is actually a very sweet story of family and survival. When the village is relocated to make room for a new hydroelectric damn, Titok and her family are forced from their homes and into a new village with the promise of new homes, electricity and a better life. In reality, they find themselves living in squalor in a shanty town along with the other relocated villagers. Ahlo befriends Kia, a little girl who has been living with her eccentric uncle who is despised by everyone in town. The friendship brings further hardship on Ahlo's family who are forced out of town and find themselves wondering the countryside in search of a new home. Titok blames Ahlo for the family's misfortune and in a moment of frustration, she reveals the secret which divides the family further.


Truth be told, The Rocket is fairly standard fare. Though the setting gives the movie an exotic feel, the story and themes of family coming together to overcome adversity is a common one but Mordaunt's film handles the material well and delivers a story that is both touching and funny. There's an underlying spirituality that isn't often explored in these stories but par for the course considering the film's setting and cinematographer Andrew Commis gorgeously captures that setting, often giving the movie an air of the supernatural.

Movies with child stars can be problematic but not this one. Sitthiphon Disamoe and Loungnam Kaosainam as Ahlo and Kia respectively, are wonderful. Wise beyond their years, they deliver excellent performances as does everyone else here though I must admit I'm partial to Thep Phongam as Kia's crazy uncle "Purple," so nicknamed for the purple suit he never takes off; a man with a troubled past that has made a habit of drowning his sorrows in liquor.

Though it occasionally touches on difficult subjects, The Rocket is generally light, more interested in entertaining than brooding in the dark corners of the family psyche. It's a movie with wonderful performances and a charm that's difficult to ignore.

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