Despite the kind of oppressively moody poster that empties theatres by painting it as a dour arthouse flick, Anna Reeves' Oyster Farmer is a pleasant surprise, an engaging comedy drama that flows along like a pleasant stretch of river. The plot is slight: Alex O'Loughlin robs a fish market with the aid of a pair of frozen lobsters and a fruit wrap and posts the money to himself on the stretch of his river where he's got a job on a failing oyster farm to fill in time while he waits for the postman. Only the money gets lost in the post before being cast adrift when the postman has a heart attack - which might seem a little contrived, but does allow the film to explore the various river dwellers he suspects may have ended up with the cash. It's no surprise that he finds love (with "the bastard child of a s*** collector," no less) and the possibility of a real home and future, but the film is far more interested in its likeable characters than breaking new narrative ground, and, with the exception of Jack Thompson's redundant (in both senses of the word) Vietnam vet who seems to have been drafted in solely to add a bit of star power, they're all richly drawn or appealing enough for you to go along with it with no complaints.
It's an Australian film through and through, so, naturally for tax reasons, it's technically a British co-production, which meant going to the absurd extremes of buying film stock from the UK, shipping it to Australia, shipping it back to England to be processed, doing the post-production in the UK and hiring a UK composer and actor to rack up enough points to qualify for those all important sale-and-leaseback requirements. Naturally, the film was never released in the UK. Luckily the UK actor is Bishop Brennan himself, Jim Norton (who gets throttled in one scene but not kicked in the arse by a priest, although he does get to give mouth to mouth to a dog). He gets all the best lines and all but walks off with the movie, but all the cast are on good form here, turning in likeable and believable performances that draw you into the not just the characters and the film but the place itself: take a bow David Field, Kerry Armstrong, Diana Glenn et al. Quietly delightful. The only downer is that the DVD has been needlessly panned-and-scanned from its original 2.35:1 ratio to 1.78:1.