Review: The Sapphires

Director: Wayne Blair

Starring: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell

Rating: ★★★★★

The Sapphires tells the story of four Australian Aboriginal girls in the 1960s making their way to the top.  The film begins with Gail (Deborah Mailman), Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) and Julie (Jessica Mauboy) taking part in their local talent contest.  Unfortunately, due to their race their talent goes unnoticed, except by Dave (Chris O’Dowd), a washed up talent scout.  Dave decides the girls need a Motown makeover and wants to lead them to their big break.  In a flash, the girls are pulled from outback Australia to the killing fields of Vietnam at the height of the war and preparing to sing for the troops.

Based on a true story, The Sapphires is a wonderful combination of Australian humour and a fantastic soundtrack.  Although there are a few cheesy moments and some of the sub-plots are forgotten and left incomplete, these small bumps are completely swept aside by the heart of the story and characters whom you cannot resist.

A fantastic element in the film is the use of archival black and white footage of the Australian Aboriginal camps of the ‘60s.  These quick snippets show the reality of the situation juxtaposed with the glamour and allure of the film, which is drenched in show stopping numbers of classic old favourites.  The drama and the reality of the tale winds in beautifully, with an exploration of discrimination, the Stolen Generations in Australia and the tragedy of the Vietnam War.  Director Wayne Blair has tastefully created an entertaining and moving film.

Mauboy’s lead vocals on soul classics such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “I’ll Take You There” will give you goose bumps.  She most definitely made the film, followed closely by Chris O’Dowd, with his quirky one-liners and Irish sensibilities, not to mention his occasional (attempts at) joining in with the music.

The film has wowed critics worldwide, and I can absolutely understand why.  Overall, the film is pure fun and entertainment.  If you like a bit of history, enjoy some soul music and mostly just want a good laugh, put this film at the top of your list.

By Gabrielle Lyons