All roads lead to the same destination in the soulfully rich, toe tapping Aussie musical, Bran Nue Dae.
An adaptation of the stage play conceived by musician and playwright Jimmy Chi, Bran Nue Dae is a film which confronts hot button social issues (sex, religion, indigenous identity), but does not force feed them to its audience.
Its strength is its diversification. On the surface, Bran Nue Dae may seem nothing more than a road trip/ musical hybrid. Yet at its core, the kilometres clocked in this journey hold as much spiritual mileage as it does cinematic.
That it features amongst its cast of characters a Catholic priest; two Buddha worshipping hippies; and an Aboriginal alcoholic, is an example of how Bran Nue Dae is not content to limiting itself: here is a film which has opted to mix music with drama, comedy and social commentary, adventure with realism, and it works.
Set in the Western Australian town of Broome, circa 1960s, Bran Nue Dae stars newcomer Rocky McKenzie as Willie, an Aboriginal adolescent conflicted in faith as well as love.
It is the wish of his deeply religious mother (Ningali Lawford) that Willie attends a Catholic boarding school in the far off city of Perth, and become a priest. Celibacy and dedication to the Church, however, is a hard pill to swallow when Willie falls in love and lust with local girl, Rosie (Jessica Mauboy).
The head of the school is eccentric disciplinarian Father Benedictus, a German priest played with aplomb by Geoffrey Rush, who somehow manages to pull off a thick accent which makes the Oscar winner sound like a second fiddle character in an Indiana Jones film.
When the homesick Willie is pressured into and then busted for stealing, he stands up to the corporal punishment about to be administered, and runs away. It is at this point Willie befriends Uncle Tadpole, a homeless alcoholic who agrees to accompany Willie back to Broome.
Playing Uncle Tadpole is popular indigenous Australian personality Ernie Dingo, an original cast member of the stage show who exudes warmth and an ever present cheekiness, his role a clear representation of the crippling alcoholism and poverty amongst the Aboriginal people.
Director Rachel Perkins takes on the mish-mash of genre and theme, and carefully weaves them into an amusing an entertaining film, the glue which makes its sprawling pieces stick together its catchy and soulful compositions performed by artists who can carry a tune.
Sure, the ending to Bran Nue Dae is silly and disappointing. But this is a film about the importance of the journey, not its conclusion, and for that it is worth the ride.