I must’ve had an unadventurous childhood for not once do I recall sneaking out my bedroom window at night. The children in Jasper Jones hardly think twice about ducking out into the dark for all manner of reason.
That said, it does take some coaxing by Jasper (Aaron L. McGrath) to get 14–year–old Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) to do the deed the first time. Maybe it’s just what they do in small Australian towns or back in the ‘60s as per the film’s setting. It is somewhat surprising that the parents aren’t more protective considering local girl Laura Wishart has gone missing.
Laura is Jasper’s girlfriend and it’s her that he needs Charlie’s help with. Jasper has found her hanging from a noose in nearby woods and being the mixed–race outcast and fearful of blame, he is keen to hide the bruised and battered body and set about finding who did it. He suspects Mad Jack Lionel (a wonderfully grizzled Hugo Weaving) who lurks in the shadows of his own mysterious past. It seems just about everyone from the town’s cop, to Laura’s sister Eliza (Angourie Rice), to Charlie’s mum (Toni Collette), has their secrets and it’s Charlie’s rite of passage to grapple with these dark truths.
There’s much to like about Jasper Jones. Director Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue Dae) has succeeded in her choice to keep the focus on the characters and story rather than get too bogged down in the potential heaviness of the more adult themes present. She balances the film’s tone nicely to capture the nostalgic yearning over childhood loss of innocence and the suspense that drives the unravelling mystery at the film’s core.
The cast also keeps things understated and engagingly bring to life Craig Silvey’s screenplay adapted from his own popular coming–of–age novel of the same name. Collette in particular is completely riveting in her role as a restless housewife seeking out more from life than what any small town can give.
Rated M. Jasper Jones is in cinemas now.