A lovely adaptation of Colin Thiele’s beloved Australian children’s book gets bogged down in a framing narrative that tries to make it feel “contemporary.” The primary narrative involves a young boy named Michael (Finn Little), living with his widowed dad (Jai Courtney) in coastal Australia in the 1950s, who becomes surrogate parent to a trio of orphaned pelican chicks. There’s conflict involving a dispute between hunters and proto-environmentalists over creating a bird sanctuary, but the focus remains mostly on the connection between Michael and his pelicans, with charming scenes of the birds’ devotion to their caretaker. But we also move back and forth to the present day, where Michael (Geoffrey Rush) is now a retired businessman whose granddaughter (Morgana Davies) wants him to step in to stop that business—now run by the widower of Michael’s deceased daughter—from an environmentally questionable deal. While director Shawn Seet crafts some nice moments suggesting the physical intrusion of nostalgia into older Michael’s mind, it’s a frustrating distraction every time the narrative takes us away from the simpler pleasures of a boy and his birds.
Director: Shawn Seet
Producer: Michael Boughen, Matthew Street, Justin Deimen, Christopher Figg, Sherman Ng, Geoffrey Rush, Robert Slaviero and Robert Whitehouse
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Jai Courtney, Finn Little, Trevor Jamieson, Morgana Davies, Erik Thomson, David Gulpilil and Chantal Contouri