Coming of age family drama Emu Runner shows the litany of problems that Australian Indigenous families go through. But in its defense, its beginnings have many possibilities.
That beginning involves a girl Gem (Rhae-Kye Waites) and her father Jay Jay (Wayne Blair). How will they live after the death of Gem’s mother?
Gem’s family is less stable without its strongest legs. Writer-director Imogen Thomas also adds a well meaning social worker Heidi Goodall (Georgia Blizzard) into the mix.
Other family members include an adult brother who works with Jay Jay who gets into a troubling and problematic interracial relationship.
The family gives mixed signals that make it seem like they are neglecting Gem. This forces Heidi to inch her way into the family affairs.
That said, the rest of the movie’s first act seems too frustratingly low stakes. Although there is a mix of emotions as Thomas’ camera lingers.
Thomas’ camera stays with Waites as she runs through parts of rural Australia. Waites is too young to have acting talent but watching her physical feats is compelling enough.
Some of that camera work works better than others though, as Gem develops a bond with an Emu. Cue the static shots of nature.
The film doesn’t always spend time in the outback. It also shows Gem’s conversations with the supporting actors playing her other family members.
The dynamic between the independent Gem and her family saves the film. That dynamic keeps this thing grounded, despite of how messy things can seem.