There seems to be a trend developing in Australian films dealing with the aboriginal inhabitants.
It is a theme of an indigenous man returning (from a big city) to see a child he has fathered and the child's mother, with an ill-formed but real view to effecting some sort of reconciliation. That's the situation in Ivan Sen's 2013 film, "Mystery Road".
It is also the narrative backbone of Brendan Fletcher's 2010 film, "Mad Bastards".
"Mad Bastards" also seems to exhibit thematic resonances with a couple of other Australian films.
The first is Michael Joy's 2008 very affecting "Men's Group", which details the coming together of damaged, Australian (caucasian) males who over a period of time manage to surmount the reserve men have about exposing their weakness to other men. That reticence is probably a survival instinct, but it can leave them lonely and alienated, especially when they lack female companionship.
In "Mad Bastards", Texas (Greg Tait), the local police officer of an isolated settlement in the north of Western Australia, to whom we will refer as the local sheriff, has started a men's group. Little bonding or communication has taken place among the participants. They seem to attend only to partake of the barbecued sausages meal on offer. But it all goes to demonstrate the 'sensitive new age guy' sensibilities that co-exist with the 'hard as nails' persona of the local sheriff. He wants to show decency, love, forgiveness, redemption to the broken people with whose security he has been entrusted. They include his juvenile grand son, who has escaped a jail term by submitting to a "bush survival skills" intervention run by a tribal elder.
The other film with which it resonates is Elissa Down's, "Black Balloon" (2008). That film tells the story of an autistic kid who lives with a loving family who do their utmost to tolerate his perverse behaviour by treating it as essentially 'harmless pranks' . Those perversions include 1 Entering into strangers' houses and interrupting their private functions 2 Defecating in his own home and smearing his faeces into the carpet 3 Masturbating at the dining room table in front of his brother's new girlfriend
The latter 'prank' provokes his brother to resort to a violent, physical response. The kindness, the understanding, the love, mercy and redemptive good will have finally run out. The only response left is physical violence.
Should the autistic kid be allowed to carry on in a barbaric manner? Is a violent response the only way to convey to the offender the gravity of his behaviour and the need to change that behaviour? The resort to such physical violence is the means by which the sheriff conveys to his Mad Bastard, de facto son-in-law TJ (Dean Daley-Jones) that his violent behaviour will not be tolerated. He beats him up then gives him enough money to obey his command to 'get out of town'.
TJ, the violent Mad Bastard, declines the offer of money and a form of reconciliation takes place. At the culmination of the film he will attend the sheriff's "men's group'. Who knows? He may end up as the deputy sheriff. He has already commenced the process of establishing a relationship with his juvenile delinquent son and possibly his mother.
It is a film that depicts the nastiness of alcohol fuelled violence in all its many manifestations, both domestic and public. But it also demonstrates the civilising effects that discipline in all its manifestations, can imbue. It demonstrates the two opposing but co-habiting concepts of redemption and atonement. The redemption is underlined by the gentle music of the Pigram family band music. The atoning forces by the performance of Greg Tait.
An interesting detail is that TJ, the Mad Bastard is of Noongar origin. The Noongar people have recently become the first indigenous Australians to enter into a settlement agreement with the European colonisers of Australia that reflects the findings of the High Court in the Mabo and Wik cases. They have relinquished their land rights claim over Perth, the capital city and the south west of Western Australia in exchange for a compensation settlement. In the course of the film, TJ refers to the brewery that had been constructed on a spring that feeds water into the Swan River near Perth. He sees it as a desecration of the body of Wagyl, a snakelike being from the Dreamtime that meandered over the land creating rivers, waterways and lakes.(see Wikipedia for more details) That site was an important part of the settlement.
At the end of the film, the principal actors go out of character and relate snippets of their own volatile experiences and the decisions they have made to embrace a more disciplined, civilised life style. It seems to involve family ties, temperance in all things, and (perhaps) a renewed interest and valuation of their cultural heritage by 'going bush'. That has some resonance with the prevailing sentiments of "Blackfellas", a 1993 film about West Australian aborigines coming to terms with the European colonisation of their land.