Jamie Carr (Christopher Pate) is a young man growing up in Bundaberg, Northern Queensland during the closing years of World War I. Jamie, who is in his final year of high school, was brought up by his grandmother (a moving character portrait by Geraldine Fitzgerald). Grandma Carr is known and loved by all in the town, and does her best to help Jamie through the emotional turmoil of adolescence. After the death of his beloved grandmother, Jamie sets out to build a future of his own in the city as he and his friends face the possibility of being sent to war.

Based on a novel by Ronald McKie, The Mango Tree was written and produced by former Hollywood actor Michael Pate and features ballet star Robert Helpmann. 

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The Pates conspire on turgid Aussie drama.

It may be unfair to suggest that Christopher Pate won the lead role in this plodding 1977 Australian melodrama purely due to nepotism, as his father Michael produced the film and adapted the screenplay from a novel by Ronald McKie.

But by any measure the actor, who was 25 at the time, looks way too old to be credible as a teenager in his last year of high school, who lives with his grandmother (Geraldine Fitzgerald) in rural Queensland.

While it might be unkind to say so, the young Pate lacked the presence and raw talent to pull off the part; tellingly, after this film, he mostly worked in television, and sporadically at that.

Set in the final months of World War 1, the coming-of-age saga follows Jamie Carr (Pate), who’s been raised by the wise, kindly and fortuitously wealthy grandma after his pilot father died in the war; his mum perished when he was a baby. Grandma Carr sounds very English, although she was born and raised in Oz, but that is a minor flaw.
Their small town is populated by clunky stereotypes: the sickly, elderly drunkard known as the Professor (Robert Helpmann, excruciating), whom grandma Carr nurses back to health, albeit temporarily, a barking-mad lay preacher (Gerard Kennedy, eyes bulging), and a sadistic teacher.

Young Pate looks out of place surrounded by his fresh-faced fellow students. The scene in which Jamie loses his virginity is simply awful, as is his attempt to appear heartbroken afterwards. His character starts out as shy and shallow and pretty much finishes in the same dreary state.

The few moments of drama arise after the preacher and his niece go missing, and towards the end. A class act, Ms Fitzgerald is the only person who emerges from this inept film, dully directed by Kevin Dobson, with her grace and dignity intact. The DVD includes an interview with Christopher, if anyone cares.

Details

PG
1 hour 30 min
Fri, 09/25/2009 - 11

Genres