When I heard there was an Australian film releasing that was freely boasting of being shot in Byron Bay, I rolled my eyes, expecting a tourism ad. So, when I finally saw Tyler Atkins’ feature debut, Bosch & Rockit, I was pleasantly surprised. What Atkins provided instead of my cynical assumptions was a heartfelt ode to fatherhood through the lens of a boy coming of age with a criminal dad.
The story, which is inspired by true events, follows the titular Bosch (Luke Hemsworth) and Rockit (Rasmus King). They lead pleasant lives on the NSW coastline, but it’s hampered by two things: one Rockit’s mum Elizabeth (Leeanna Walsman), has left them, and two Bosch funds their lives by being a drug dealer. It isn’t long until the second of these issues flares, and Bosch is forced on the run to Byron Bay to hide from the police, who have discovered his drug trade.
What I expected to follow was a wild goose chase, but that takes a back seat, and instead, we get a touching story of an ostracised boy finding his place in the world. See, Rockit can’t read well, and he’s bullied in school for it. So much so he often doesn’t go; he heads to the beach and does what he loves most in the world, surf. If there’s one thing Aussie movies get right consistently, it’s the wonder of the surf. It was magical in Simon Baker’s Breathe, and it remains so here. It’s perhaps Australian cinema’s greatest asset, and it’s always a joy to see it presented so beautifully.
The film from there is much like the surf, calm at points but hectic and challenging to traverse at times. However, the current through it all is the relationship between a boy and his father, which is solidified through King and Hemsworth’s performances. Joining them and delivering a strong performance is Savannah La Rain, who plays Ash, a young girl who finds Rockit to be her only friend while on holiday in Byron Bay. As an ensemble, they are the key players, and they level the often very high drama into something touching when it easily could have been volatile.
The pacing in the middle of the film is where things go slightly awry. There’s a set piece where a character is rushed to a hospital that feels more forced than necessary, and a key member of that sequence later leaves the film off-screen. It’s a minor issue in the overall experience, but it is noticeable. Perhaps the ending will also garner disapproval as it ends with a comma rather than a full stop, but I found it poignant. Not every story needs to be tied into a bow, and leaving things where Atkins does feels like the right decision.
On the tourism front, I can safely say that if this is another sly Screen Australia tourism ad, at least it’s an enjoyable one. The issue isn’t so egregious that every Australian film is set in a gorgeous tourist location, but it does happen more than it should. All in all, though, if they must be made, make them like this.
Bosch & Rockit is one of the best Australian films of the year, thanks to the fantastic and moving work of Luke Hemsworth and Ramus King in the titular roles. As a debuting director, Tyler Atkins should be very proud, and I am eager to see what comes from him next.
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