Lena (Dannielle Hall) has an absent Irish father she longs to see and an Aboriginal mother she finds disgusting. When she breaks away, she meets up with petty crim Vaughn (Damien Pitt) who’s just escaped from low security prison to reluctantly visit his dying mother. Blonde and light-skinned, Lena is remains in denial about her Aboriginal heritage; Vaughn is an angry young man with a grudge against all whites. An uneasy relationship begins to form as they hit the road heading to Sydney, taking them on a journey that’s as emotional as it is physical, as revealing as it is desperate.

This minimal, spare film has an incredible beauty.

Beneath Clouds brings together two characters who are alienated from their families and from their own identity. Lena, Danielle Hall, is the daughter of an aboriginal mother and an Irish father whom she's never known. However she knows enough to not want her probable future if she stays in the country town where she's grown up and so she decides to head off to Sydney to find her father. En route she meets Vaughn, Damian Pitt, who's escaped from a prison farm to visit his sick mother. Both Lena and Vaughn have a hard protective shell that's not easily cracked.

This minimal, spare film has an incredible beauty. Long-time collaborator of the director, Allan Collins' cinematography is stunning and the soundtrack that was composed by Sen really adds another significant layer to the film. Having seen quite a lot of Ivan Sen's previous work, I can understand how Beneath Clouds brings together the issues of a world he knows well. The question of aboriginality, the despair, the anger, the resentment, the confusion that goes with that identity in this country is explored with great compassion here. Both young performers, Danielle Hall and Damien Pitt are extraordinarily good in bringing these two wounded children to life. I think this is one of the great Australian films of recent years.


Watch 'Beneath Clouds' at SBS on Demand

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this film may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.


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