FIB Film of the Week: Jasper Jones

Being dubbed as Australia’s take on the classic film Stand by Me, this coming-of-age film deals with the issue of prejudice in the fictitious rural town of Corrigan.

Jasper Jones (Aaron L. McGrath), Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) and Eliza Wishart (Angourie Rice) in the film Jasper Jones. Photo credit: The Australian


Based on the 2009 novel Jasper Jones, written by Freemantle-based author Craig Silvey, this dark, moving and funny film by the same name is dealing with prejudice that was as common as ever during the 1960s.

The film adaptation, directed by Rachel Perkins, follows bookish thirteen-year-old Charlie Bucktin and his adventures during the summer of 1969 in the Western Australian town. It’s the week between Christmas and New Years and the plot is probably exactly what you would expect of a fluffy, coming-of-age film. Until it’s not.

Silvey was excited that the elements of race that were explored throughout his book were more pronounced throughout the film. Both the book and the new film are being dubbed the Australian version of To Kill a Mockingbird due to their exploration of race issues.

Jeffrey Lu (Kevin Long) and Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) in the film Jasper Jones. Photo credit: Madman


Charlie’s best friend, Jeffrey, is the child of Vietnamese migrants. The duo do what every other pair of thirteen-year-olds do; make up stories about superheroes and ride their bikes around the town they call their own.

Charlie’s family plays out as a secondary story throughout the film. We’re aware of the Vietnam War occurring, unseen, in the background and the racial tensions in the town loom over the dividing community. Everything is thrown on its head when the audience is introduced to Jasper Jones, a local Aboriginal boy. He seeks out Charlie’s help for something the pair never expected to be dealing with.

While the young actors managed to portray the confusing nature of being a teenager in a small town, there are some questions that remain unanswered following the end of the film. The main one being: why pick Charlie for help?

Ruth (Toni Collette) and Wes Bucktin (Dan Wyllie) in Jasper Jones. Photo credit: Madman
Ruth (Toni Collette) and Wes Bucktin (Dan Wyllie) in Jasper Jones. Photo credit: Madman


For an underrated Australian film, the adaptation still manages to have a very talented cast. Toni Collette and Dan Wyllie play Charlie’s parents and Hugo Weaving plays local hermit ‘Mad’ Jack Lionel. The attention isn’t always on the veteran actors though; Levi Miller (Charlie), Kevin Long (Jeffrey), Angourie Rice (Eliza) and Aaron L. McGrath (Jasper) bring a needed freshness and child-like wonder to the film.

Silvey and screenplay writer Shaun Grant teamed up to write the script for the adaptation. They were awarded an AWGIE Award by the Australian Writer’s Guild for the most outstanding script for a feature film adaptation.

Jasper Jones is currently showing at cinemas. Take a look at the trailer below: