Romulus, My Father

Family drama

  • Written by Nick Drake, from the memoir by Raimond Gaita
  • Directed by Richard Roxburgh

Nothing’s worse than a serious, character-driven drama that fails. A bad comedy will probably provide some laughs, and a bad action movie some thrills. But if a drama doesn’t work as a whole, the parts don’t amount to much, either.

Romulus, My Father fails. Although based on a true story, neither the characters nor their actions seem plausible. Their primary motivation, as near as I could tell, was to keep the story going.

That story concerns European immigrants in rural Australia in the early 1960’s. The Romulus of the title (Eric Bana) is a farmer, a blacksmith, and a father. In fact, he’s a wonderful, loving father to his son Raimond (Kodi Smit-McPhee, who doesn’t visually age as the movie spans two years). As the title implies, the story is told through Rai’s eyes.

But Romulus has a serious flaw: He’s still married to Rai’s mother, Christina (Franka Potente), and he’s still in love with her. That’s a flaw because she’s crazy–in just about every way that a woman can be crazy in a bad drama. She’s promiscuous. She has no sense of responsibility. She ignores her children. She’s suicidal.

In fact, she’s so suicidal, it’s catching. Her behavior drives Romulus to try killing himself. Her lover seems like a nice enough guy, but she makes him want to take his own life, too.

Now, I can understand men lusting after a woman who looks like Franka Potente; I’ve lusted after every character I’ve seen her play. But I couldn’t understand why neither of these guys could figure out that bad news is bad news. Yes, I could understand why Romulus cares about her and wants to help her, but not why he turns himself into a suicidal celibate while hoping to bring this disaster back into his–and his son’s–life.

Maybe there are people like that. Maybe this movie is an accurate recreation of Raimond Gaita’s childhood. But that just proves Kurt Vonnegut right: “God never wrote a good play in his life.–

One thought on “Romulus, My Father

  1. Can we also point out here the disturbing trend of family dramas with titles that make me expect big, action-packed historical epics?

    The Barbarian Invasions; The Savages; Romulus, My Father… what the hell is going on here?

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