• Sunday Too Far Away (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: February 17th, 2021.
    Director: Ken Hannam
    Cast: Jack Thompson, Max Cullen, Robert Bruning
    Year: 1975
    Purchase From Amazon

    Sunday Too Far Away - Movie Review:

    One of the most important films of the Australian “New Wave,” 1975’s SUNDAY TOO FAR AWAY isn’t exactly a traditionally narratively driven drama. The story of a gun shearer (I’ll explain that in a bit), his mates and the hardscrabble life of men who work with their hands, arms and backs in the most inhospitable conditions, this film is a masterclass in time and place. In this case Australia in the 1950s.

    Jack Thompson (often good-naturedly referred to an Australian national treasure) is Foley - a man who shears sheep for a living. These workers were called gun shearers because they had to work fast to earn a living wage. Like an animal version of factory paid-by-the-piece work, the men were paid based on the number of sheep they cut. Injuring the animals was a no-go so this required both precise cutting and speed. For the men reading - ever try shaving a full beard in under four-minutes? You get the idea. Foley is very good at his job and has a natural talent for leadership so he becomes the de-facto leader of the workers at this outpost. His mentor, the older and more tragic Garth (Reg Lye), is a stark warning to Foley of what awaits him if he doesn’t start making serious plans for his life. Garth is now a hopeless alcoholic with seriously declining health. The intelligence remains but his spirit his broken. As the men drink and eat and joke around about the usual manly topics, many are pushing themselves past the breaking point in hopes of getting a promised cash bonus for exceeding target shearing numbers. The company heads have other plans, however, and they involve bringing in scabs to do the work cheaper and with no bonuses.

    Despite the fact that the blurbs for this film often highlighted this unionized vs. non-unionized part of the film’s plot, this aspect only bookends the film. This is the definition of a slice-of-life piece. SUNDAY TOO FAR AWAY is an amazing window into 1955 Australia - a blasted and desolate, yet somehow gorgeous, landscape where oppressive heat makes everything shimmer. Australia has always been a wild country but in these bygone days it really seemed otherworldly. The American Wild West has nothing on this stunning hellscape. The film does an absolutely fantastic job of capturing the difficulties of being a man performing difficult manual labor under almost impossible conditions. It’s no wonder that the men can only let off steam by either drinking heavily or brawling. It’s a well-known joke that finding an Australian man over the age of 30 who has been in less than four bar fights is almost impossible. And if that’s the case today you can only imagine how tough these characters were back in the 50s, 60s and 70s!

    In addition to the eye popping natural panorama and excellent naturalism shown by the actors, SUNDAY TOO FAR AWAY is a fascinating tutorial on just how those woolen mittens of yours got made. The sheep are quite fascinating to watch and watching a man shear one huge ball of thick fluff down to practically skin in under three-minutes is quite a sight!

    The film suffered through some rather famous difficulties in post-production. Two original cuts were longer by a half hour and an hour respectively with the producers assembling a final cut that removed a number of subplots and performances. Thompson vastly preferred the two-hour cut claiming that it was one of the finest films ever made in Australian history. As it stands however, SUNDAY TOO FAR AWAY remains one of the finest examples of early Australian filmmaking with its own unique perspective on the country and this aspect of its culture. Along with BREAKER MORANT, it exemplifies the greatest insight into what many Aussies refer to as “mateship”.

    Sunday Too Far Away - Blu-ray Review:

    Umbrella have assembled a lovely package for this worthy film. The 1080p AVC encoded 1080p encoded 1.85:1 framed widescreen transfer has a nice, naturalistic look showcasing strong color with the sunburnt part of the palette coming across particularly well. Fine detail is excellent all around and especially notable on sweaty faces and wooly sheep. Like most strong transfers these days, there are no traces of digital corrections or overzealous filtering.

    Audio is handled by dual DTS-HD tracks, both in English - one in 2.0 Mono and the newer one in 5.1. I prefer the original track but the 5.1 is a discreet affair which mostly simply expands the soundfield without adding in any distracting audio effects. English subtitles are also provided.

    Jack Thompson sits for a fascinating interview recorded at GOMA in 2019. The primary focus is STFA but he has some interesting things to say about the Australian arts and theater scenes as well. Thompson is an engaging interview subject and this is well worth a look for anyone with an interest in the actor or Australian theater and film history. An historical TV documentary from 1975 on the film is also included. At just under thirty-minutes, it contains plenty of interesting vintage interviews with the cast and crew that really give you a feel for just how exciting this film was for the Australian film industry in 1975.

    Finally, the original premier program from 1975 is included as a slideshow alongside a stills gallery and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

    Sunday Too Far Away - The Final Word:

    Both an engaging movie and a true classic of the Australian film industry, SUNDAY TOO FAR AWAY gets my highest possible recommendation. The acting and production values are top notch and it gives the viewer a glimpse of a world very rarely seen. Umbrella has assembled a very nice release with some important extras. This Blu-ray should be of great value to collectors, especially those with an interest in Australian film.

    Click on the images below for full sized Sunday Too Far Away Blu-ray screen caps!