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Movie Review: Buckley's Chance (2021) *No Spoilers*

Buckley's Chance One Sheet
If you're going to see this film simply because Bill Nighy is in it, as I did, then his casting has paid off, however his performance as Grandpa Spencer may leave you scratching your head. He certainly looks the part, as a long in the tooth, grizzled, sheep station owner, but then he starts talking and... is that an Aussie accent he's doing?

It's hard to tell because it's such a low key, stilted performance by Bill. He's initially presented as a real hard, grumpy, no nonsense, stay out of my way, kind of character but he just seems to care too much, from the get go, about his newly arrived, American family, he's never met, of his fairly recently deceased, estranged son.

Buckley's Chance tells the story of Ridley (Milan Burch) and his mother, Gloria (Victoria Hill), who, a year after her husband's death, decide to move from New York to make a fresh start on Ridley's Grandfather's Sheep Station in Outback Western Australia (though the film is shot in Broken Hill, NSW). Neither have ever met Grandpa Spencer, since his son just up and left many years ago and never kept in touch.

Ridley has no interest in meeting his Grandpa but his mother thinks the change in environment could be the fresh start he needs to break the downward spiral he's been on since the loss of his father.

The main cast give pretty forgettable performances. Bill Nighy's in it, Victoria Hill isn't given much to do outside of being concerned for her son, and Milan Burch is fine as Ridley who, if he does take after his Dad, Dad clearly didn't think things through all that much.

Kelton Pell as Station Manager, Jules, gives the most natural performance of the film. He's totally believable in the role. For some reason Spencer speaks to him as if he's nothing more than hired help yet, as the film goes on, he's clearly a long time friend.

Ben Wood and Anthony Gooley also perform stand out comedy relief as Mick and Oscar, two not so bright, station hands from a neighboring property, at odds with Spencer's unwillingness to sell part of his station to an oil mining corporation. 

Honestly, I could've watched more of them and less Bill Nighy in this film. Their characters aren't even that over top. They're quite believable but their banter is the brightest part of a film that's trying to deal with grief and loss.

The whole subplot of Ridley befriending a dingo (not a spoiler, since the dingo is on the poster) is definitely a stretch of disbelief. To the point where I was contemplating, is the dog even real or some kind of spirit guardian? It really gets around, showing up in locations miles apart from each other.

It's clear this is intended as a family film but there's not much here for anyone to latch on to. 

There's no real character arcs, plot twists, or even much of a sweet boy and his dog story here. I found it choppy and uneven, with inconsistent characterizations, and a resolution that made no sense in terms of tying everything up with a nice bow.

Cinematography and set design is fabulous though. Pretty much what most city people think an outback sheep station probably looks like, complete with rusted out classic 1970s Toyota Land Cruiser Utes (I guess modern 4x4s look too much like city cars?).

Probably save this to watch on streaming at home... or go just to wince at Bill's Aussie accent, and wonder if Bryan Brown would've been better casting... I mean he's as famous as Bill Nighy, right? Would've got me to go see it.

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