When worlds collide in the Outback
19 Mar 2009 - 11:27 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:07 PM

This absorbing, suspense-filled drama deservedly won six AFI awards last year, including gongs for leads William McInnes and Monic Hendrickx, admittedly in yet another year of depressingly thin competition.

The first feature from writer-director Peter Duncan since his disappointing Passion in 1999, Unfinished Sky ran for 16 weeks in Aussie cinemas but wound up grossing a bit less than $1 million. So the DVD release will hopefully introduce the movie to a wider audience.

Duncan's screenplay was adapted from the 1998 Dutch pic The Polish Bride, which was Hendrickx's first starring role in her native country. She is wonderful as Tahmeena, a dark-haired beauty who, bruised and bloodied, staggers onto the farm owned by reclusive widower John Woldring (McInnes) and collapses. He carries her inside, while we learn through grainy flashbacks she has been brutally assaulted. She speaks no English and is clearly traumatized. John initially resents this intrusion into his cloistered, albeit cheerless world, but gradually pieces together her story: she's an Afghani refugee who's in Australia to search for her daughter after her father and husband were murdered by the Taliban.
John begins to suspect the local hotelier Bob (Bille Brown) and his son Mike (Christopher Sommers) are involved in the assault, and tries to shield her from suspicious cop Carl (David Field).

McInnes and Hendrickx spark off each other beautifully as lost souls who slowly form a bond, while Duncan keeps the plot twisting and turning in surprising directions. Some may quibble with the contrived climax which strains credulity, but overall this is an intelligent, finely-crafted psychological drama-cum-thriller.

The title refers to an unfinished jigsaw on John's table, a metaphor for the puzzle which envelops the lead characters. Ample extras include deleted scenes, illuminating interviews with cast and crew, the trailer and storyboards.