Rabbit Proof Fence is a captivating tale of three young Aboriginal girls in the 1930s who were snatched from their families and taken to an institution 1500 miles away. Based on a true story recounted in the book by Doris Pilkington, the film follows the girls as they escape and attempt to walk across the Australian outback to their home.
Surprisingly unsappy but utterly moving, the film features three terrific performances from the girls (all making their acting debuts) as they make their way across the unrelenting countryside using the wire fence that cuts across Western Australia as their guide. The big surprise, though, is Branagh, as AO Neville, the Chief Protector of the Aborigines – the man responsible for taking ‘half-caste’ Aboriginal children away from their parents to train as domestic servants and labourers (he believed preventing children of mixed marriages from marrying Aborigines would eventually wipe out the Aboriginal race). While Branagh could have played the man as the root of all evil, he instead gives Neville some humanity, so that while we hate him, he comes across as a misguided man rather than a pantomime villain.
Younger children may be upset by the girls’ plight, so this achingly sad story is best reserved for the over-elevens, who will no doubt be moved, especially by Sampi’s performance as Molly, the most determined of the three. A fascinating look, for kids and adults, at a piece of recent history Australians would probably rather forget.
Is Rabbit Proof Fence suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
The whole premise of the film – children taken forcibly from their parents – will upset younger children so this is probably not suitable for viewers under the age of 11.
The girls are on the run and have to hide, which is very tense, and you see one grabbed and dragged away.
You hear, but don’t see, a child being whipped.