Sarah Spillane’s coming of age drama Around the Block tells the story of an Aboriginal youth, Liam (Hunter Page-Lochard) who is torn between a family feud and his passion for acting.
Spillane’s goal to highlight a racial prejudice towards Aboriginal culture in Australia is so clear, it has a transparency to it. While there is a significant and righteous message to be made, unfortunately some of the clichéd techniques in the plot take away from the impact slightly.
Christina Ricci’s character, Dino Chalmers, is an American ex-lesbian, ex-troubled teacher, who moves to Australia to be with her Fiancé; a character who from the start embodies all of the prejudices that she sets out to oppose. This in turn disillusions her further, causing Dino to focus all of her efforts into become the inspirational teacher for a supposedly “troubled” class, full of students who feel the strain of the bigotry and poverty they endure.
It’s almost a shame that Shakespeare is the platform used by Dino’s character to inspire her students, as this can be so easily translated into modern influences, in this case Tupac. However, Spillane uses Hamlet creatively here and the end product intertwines Indigenous culture with the traditional tale beautifully.
The backdrop of the story sees Liam’s brother overtaken by a revenge for his Uncle, the lost child so to speak. Liam yearns to break free from the cycle of crime and Dino is his ticket out. While this is an age-old format, of course there is some beauty between their relationship, which is unspoken but very present on screen.
An entertaining and at times compelling watch, while Around the Block may hit some unoriginal notes, there’s an important message and integrity that drives the film and helps it to not get lost in the crowd.
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