The story begins with a pot boiling and some shouts in the background of people fighting with the camera zooming in on the black liquid. Then it’s interrupted by the headlines and the mid-shot of a black man that we hear is called Sam Kelly.
Why is he the first man we see? Was he the one we heard fighting before the title?
Sam Kelly is an Aborigen cattleman, who works for Fred Smith (Sam Neill), a Christian Australian landowner. One day at they’re house arrives a strange man, Harry March (Ewen Leslie), a bit nervous, who offers rum and tobacco to have some help at his station. It turns out he has been a soldier and he is probably suffering from post traumatic trauma because of the atrocities he saw in war. He has a drinking problem that worsens his trauma. While Sam was gathering the cattle, Harry March rapes his wife and gets her pregnant. Sam, Lizzie (his wife) and Lucy (his niece) go back to Fred’s house without food and after being kicked off the farm in a rude way. Fred has to go away for two or three weeks and Sam asks him to take Lucy away because Harry seemed too interested in her.
One day Harry arrives very drunk and mad looking for a boy who ran away and starts shooting at Sam, until Sam shoots him with Fred’s shotgun. He and his wife run away Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) is called to find him, demanding justice for the dead man. He can’t find them so he returns home. After Sam’s finds out Lizzie is pregnant, they decide to head to the town . There is a trial to understand what and why everything has happened, and even though it ends well, there still isn’t a happy ending.
Thornton likes to play with the montage and gives little sneak peeks to the viewer through scenes that will happen ahead of the film and story. Besides this, he also plays with close-ups, mid-shots, cowboy shots and full figures zooming in and out on the actors. There are many scenes that have no dialogues and they’re especially the ones through the desert and in Australia’s natural beauty.
The title is an evident contradiction with the story, because it is no sweet country and there are no sweet men.
The landscapes are wonderful and the emotions that the director conveys through them are strong, but the film lacks of deepness, the plot is quite plain – racism and desire for change – and the fluency in the story is weak, everything happens without a logical reason.