Outback woman...

        circa 1996

By Doug Anderson

Credit to @jonesy45376 on instagram for article

McLeod's Daughters

There are powerful stories to be told as a variety of inevitabilities impact on outback Australia. Dynastic traditions evolving into new realities, easygoing yet teak-tough characters forced to accommodate the vagaries of nature and new technologies in order to win a bounty from the land, tragedies, romance and the changing acceptance of women as equals in what has long been considered a man's domain.

It's a time of transition and tectonic upheavals at the station.

These basic propositions, along with ragged mountain ranges, the dazzling sky, dust and expectation, are all components of Ro Hume's screenplay. Add Jack Thompson as McLeod, Kym Wilson and Tammy MacIntosh as his daughters, the deft hand of designer Ross Major and you'd have a good bet for decent drama. But something militates against these positives, conspiring to make McLeod's Daughters pretty ordinary.

Thompson is in good touch as the old stockman - stubborn, blindsided to certain realities regarding one daughter, Claire (MacIntosh), and gold-eyed towards the other, long-lost Tess (Wilson), who turns up out of the ashes of McLeod's en route to find her future.

Quite a few Sundays have elapsed far away and Tess's arrival jeopardises a finely balanced emotional equation capable of tipping either way into disaster. Her presence also changes the none-too-subtle gender structure between the station women and the jackaroos.

It's carefully and capably done, with Wilson displaying maturity as the emotional catalyst for a matrix of emotional bonds.

But ultimately, it's too predictable for crucial sequences - the "let me stay and fix this mess" scene springs to mind - to have the flux they need, visually or emotionally.

Director Michael Offer has notched up some credits and extracts good work from his cast but the lack of coalescence brings a sense of inevitability to McLeod's Daughters.

Perhaps a determination to avoid the lurid nostalgia of earlier outback sagas has hobbled the story.

It never rises beyond a trot.

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