Giants

By Eddy Bell | Drama
A farmer faces the worst drought in Australia's history -- and risks losing everything.

Luke is a cattle farmer in Australia, where he has a deep love and respect for the land from which he makes a living. He's grown up in the shadows of the Kaputar mountain range, and he's determined to raise his family on it as well.

But as drought hits the land and what was once green and fertile turns to brown dust, Luke works even harder, but he can't overcome the unforgiving lack of water. Luke's wife Emma wants to cut their losses and move on. But Luke just can't let go -- and just may lose it all trying to make it work.

Written and directed by Eddy Bell, this powerful short drama conveys a deep respect for the power and beauty of both the Australian landscape and the work of farmers, who take on the elements, even at their most pitiless and difficult. The portrait of a devoted farmer is rendered with both grit and poetry, allowing viewers to experience the raw, stunning power of the landscape as Luke does but also the stubbornness of a man who is facing failure and change and can't quite wrap his head around it.

Apropos of a film about a man and his relationship to nature and his environment, the visuals are stunning, rendering the land with a sense of its epic scale, dramatic vistas and formidable horizons. Actor Luke Mulquiney as the farmer is often dwarfed by this landscape. The mountains often lurk in the background, a silent, ancient presence reminding Luke of both his deep attachment to his land, but also how small and ineffective he is in the face of drought.

Luke faces an increasingly difficult situation as the drought wears on, and there's no more green for his herd to graze on. He can buy expensive feed to keep them alive, but will owe the bank a large sum of money, and will soon face the choice of having to kill them off since the land can't feed them. The storytelling, though, doesn't focus on the drama of these events, but on the internal and emotional battles that Luke faces. But the real narrative, though, is about the land pushed to its extremes, and how it shifts from green to brown in the face of the drought. This natural disaster is the frame that controls the lives trapped within it.

Mulquiney's performance portrays the quiet desperation of a man engaged in a high-stakes gambling act, as he attempts to hold onto his stock and wait for rain. But as he waits it out, his family suffers economically and emotionally, something his wife -- played with equal desperation by actor Emma Jackson -- realizes before Luke does. Eventually, she does what she feels they must do to survive, but Luke remains on the land, hoping beyond hope that the rain will come before it's too late.

Powerful, poetic and compelling, the great gift of "Giants" is its evocation of this corner of Australian life, with its beauty and its harshness inextricably intertwined. The title refers to the mountain range that frames both Luke's life and the film's visuals, and how the peaks and troughs resemble a man and a woman lying together. They are a symbol of something ancient and ancestral, of a perspective wider and farther-seeing than anything humankind can come up with. But they're also cold comfort when Luke loses it all, facing the devastation and loss he tried so hard to avoid.




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