A film made with love, care and affection – South Australia has rarely looked more beautiful on screen (this is a great ad for the state) - and the performances are excellent (the young kids are superb). That still doesn’t make for a compelling film.
Stories about brooding, handsome widowers who struggle to raise their kids have always been popular – indeed, there are enough of them to form their own genre – but they’re almost always told from the point of view of a girl who comes into their lives to help: Jane Eyre, The Sound of Music, The Nanny. There’s some variations of this: the dad who becomes a super-dad (but again those films have a girl as a crucial character: Mr Mom, Kramer vs Kramer) or the dad who teams with another male to raise kids (Three Men and a Baby, Full House). This doesn’t have a prominent female or other male and I think it suffers for it. There are possibilities – Emma Booth as a potential new love interest, Julia Blake as mother of Owen’s dead wife – but neither get much of a chance something to do.
The set up is okay – Owen's wife dies, he decides to raise his kids using a “just say yes” philosophy – but they struggle developing it further. The bulk of the conflict involves Owen putting his eldest son off-side and trying to persuade him to come home. It’s not really enough meat for a whole film. Watching this, I couldn’t help shake the feeling maybe it would have been a more enjoyable film if it had been crappier and not so tasteful – gone more for the heartstrings, brought in a love interest and/or a custody dispute.