The Merger (M)

In a Word: Hopeful

An Australian film in the vein of The Castle and The Dish, The Merger tells the story of how the dying, small community of Bodgy Creek responds when a lack of success, players and funds sees the local AFL team - the Bodgy Creek Roosters - threatened with a merger. 

On the face of it, it's a movie about sport but that's just the vehicle through which the film's underlying story can be explored: how the community responds to the many refugees - 'reffos' - who have come to settle among the longer-term residents. 

The Merger

"Developed out of a one man show of Callinan's and directed by Mark Grentell, it's a funny, ockerish and heart-warming film which plays with the idea of Australian identity against the backdrop of the country's refugee policies..."

Damian Callinan plays Troy Carrington, a former footy hero whose career was cut short when he had a catastrophic entanglement with a cheer squad banner and who earned the nickname 'Town Killer' (everyone in town has a nickname) when he protested against logging and was blamed for ending the town's main industry - a timber mill.

When 'Bull' Barlow (John Howard), the footy club's beligerant president, fails to come up with a plan to save the footy club, the members vote to accept an alternative plan put forward by Carrington which involves asking the newly arrived refugees to become part of the footy team.

Carrington is urged on by Bull's daughter-in-law Angie Barlow (Kate Mulvany) and her precocious, documentary-making 10-year-old son Neil (Rafferty Grierson) who are themselves still grieving the loss of their husband and father a year ago. Angie, the town's main advocate for refugees, finds herself at odds with Bull over the decision as he struggles to come to terms with the changes taking part in the town (he even starts a petition against the refugees taking local jobs).

Developed out of a one man stage play of Callinan's and directed by Mark Grentell (he's previously directed the 2013 cricket film, Backyard Ashes), it's a funny, ockerish and heart-filled film which plays with the idea of Australian identity against the backdrop of the country's refugee policies. While there's obviously a sharp undercurrent to the story, it's done with a light touch, the focus here being on the people and not the policies.

This is not a blockbuster and unlikely to get a wide release but it's worth making the effort to seek it out. Sure, it's got its share of cliches and be warned, there's some strong language. But if you enjoy a light-hearted, hopeful and yes, uniquely Australian, take on a current issue, it's worth considering.