Reading Jasper Jones with a bunch of other people on Goodreads was my first introduction to the Aussie blogging community, so in many ways it’s always held a special place in my heart. But it’s also a damn good book. Since I read the novel and was lucky enough to meet Craig Silvey in Brisbane, I’ve been waiting for this film. First, there was a stage play, but living in regional Queensland I was realistic about my chances of ever getting to see it. Even when the movie was announced and the release date drew nearer, I didn’t want to get my hopes up about being able to see this story on the big screen. Cue my extreme ALL CAPS excitement when I saw it was scheduled at our cinema. Of course, I had to bring my book blogger bestie Caitlin along for the ride.
Because I suck at getting my life together, I didn’t get a chance to re-read the book before the film, but I have every intention of getting to it again at some point this year. But from the opening scenes, this film really mirrored the small town I had pictured as I read. This translation from page to screen was no doubt so seamless because Silvey co-wrote the screenplay with Shaun Grant. Corrigin is the quintessential 1960s Aussie town. From the cars and cottages to the town hall and local cricket match; there’s a real nostalgia to this film I’m sure every Australian who’s lived in a regional or rural area can relate to.
Of course, in perfecting the setting, Silvey has also highlighted the uncomfortable issues which still haunt our nation. The persecution of Jasper, seemingly the town’s sole Aboriginal inhabitant, and the aggression towards the Vietnamese Lu family were elements of the plot which all too easily align with contemporary political issues. In telling this story, Silvey hasn’t shied away from these things. There were several confronting scenes, but the sparse use of these outright displays of bigotry combined with the subtle undertone of racism and xenophobia only served to highlight their power within the story.
I can’t remember how I pictured the characters when I read Jasper Jones, but as soon as I saw this cast on screen I had no doubt each person was perfect for their role. Levi Miller, Aaron L. McGrath and Angourie Rice were standout performers in their respective roles of Charlie, Jasper and Eliza. Toni Collette and Dan Wyllie were superb as Charie’s parents, and I just loved the few snarky asides they snuck into what is really quite a serious film. Likewise, Hugo Weaving was so absorbing as Mad Jack Lionel. But my favourite character was, as in the book, Jeffrey Lu played by Kevin Long. I was smiling almost every time Jeffrey got some great screen time.
I loved every second of Jasper Jones and I can’t wait to get the DVD and watch it again with both my parents, who I know will enjoy the storytelling with a distinctly Australian flavour. This has been described as our To Kill a Mockingbird, but I think to even make the comparison diminishes Jasper Jones as an incredibly well-written story in its own right. The film breathes new life into a novel which has been on ‘best of’ lists for the last few years and will no doubt win Silver plenty of new fans. I couldn’t help feeling so proud of this little Aussie story which has been adapted so sensitively and faithfully. This is a film that deserves your attention, so go and show it some love.