Film Review – The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson

Molly Johnson will do anything to protect her family

As Europeans began to colonise the new world, myths and legends began to spring up around a number of figures. Tales of outlaws, lawmen and folk heroes travelled across vast expanses of land through word of mouth. While exaggeration and embellishment were par for the course, there is usually an element of truth involved. These real-life characters were joined by ones conjured up by writers with a story to tell. As is the case in The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson.

At the end of the nineteenth century, a heavily pregnant Molly Johnson (Leah Purcell) lives in an isolated cabin in the Snowy Mountains. With her husband away with work, she’s responsible for both its upkeep and looking after the children, but has little to do with the townies. When a visitor arrives, unbeknownst to her an escaped indigenous prisoner Yadaka (Rob Collins), she’s wary at first but soon begins to appreciate his help.

The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson takes Henry Lawson’s short story and adds a modern spin to it. Covering issues such as indigenous rights and female empowerment, writer, director and star Purcell creates a gritty and powerful western. It’s her muscular central performance that drives the narrative forward. Adding a disrupter to a traditionally male dominated area. While the central message becomes a little diluted by the amount of ground The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson tries to cover, it remains a compelling frontier parable.

The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson is out in UK cinemas on 13 May.

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