Book-to-screen adaptations are a controversial art. The limitations of special effects and other behind the scenes factors can make it difficult to accurately portray an author’s literary vision, however some adaptations can exceed all expectations and bring a story to an entirely new audience.
In the spirit of the news that Holden Sheppard’s Invisible Boys will soon be adapted for the big screen, here are some other Aussie adaptations to add to your watch list.
Holding the Man
Keep a box of tissues handy for this one, as it’s a major tearjerker. This memoir follows Tim Conigrave as he comes to terms with his sexuality and deals with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. It covers Tim’s adolescence and adulthood, following him as he falls in love with John whilst they are both students at Melbourne’s Xavier College.
The Dressmaker stars Kate Winslet as Myrtle Dunnage—a former resident of the rural town of Dungatar—exiled after being blamed for the death of fellow student Stewart Pettyman. She returns as Tilly, a new woman with cosmopolitan style and a cityslicker attitude. The film is darkly comedic and will have you emotionally connected to the characters in no time.
Puberty Blues (both adaptations)
Puberty Blues was a staple for teens in the 1980s. While the 1981 film adaptation was “sanitised”, according to author Kathy Lette, the more recent TV adaptation delves into the more serious aspects of adolescence covered in the book. There’s even two seasons for you to binge watch!
This new release has a special place in my heart because it was filmed in my hometown of Esperance, so I get to feel all of the nostalgic emotions when I watch it. Tim Winton won a slew of awards for this book, which follows the aftermath of an affair between local woman Georgie and a mysterious stranger. It is a tale that covers a lot of ground across the outback, as the stranger goes on the run after the affair is discovered.
The Rabbit Proof Fence
This adaptation is a cinematic masterpiece. I’m pretty sure it was a staple in most high school classrooms, as I remember watching it a few times while at school. It follows Molly, Daisy and Gracie as they trek along the Rabbit Proof Fence in order to make their way home to their Aboriginal settlement. It is a poignant and important story about the horrific events of the Stolen Generation, and is based on author Doris Pilkington Garimara’s own family history.
Two musical films that are just a joy to watch. Mary Poppins was born out of a short story by Australian author P.L Travers (A.K.A Pamela Lyndon Travers), and was the author’s first literary success. The series has 8 books in total! For an even greater deep dive, check out the film Saving Mr Banks, starring Emma Thompson as Travers.
Bran Nue Dae
Bran Nue Dae is a film adaptation of the musical by Jimmy Chi. It’s boisterous, colourful and will have the entire family singing and dancing along.
The Family Law
Based on a series of personal essays by Benjamin Law, this series follows Benjamin’s Chinese-Australian family of seven. We meet the Law’s during the time of Benjamin’s childhood, so there’s plenty of laughs about the dysfunctional nature of his family and the things they get up to.