After sitting through an entire movie about oyster farmers in Australia, I'm barely more knowledgeable about that sea creature than I was before. I'm not saying that first-time director Anna Reeves is responsible for my mollusk education, but this vagueness characterizes all of Oyster Farmer. From his arrival in a tiny oyster-centric community, Jack (Alex O'Lachlan) finds trouble: robbing an armored car with a frozen lobster and fruit-leather mask; stripping down to his skivvies for his boss' estranged wife. Granted, he always means well. He intends to use the loot for his sister's medical bills, yet for some reason the cash gets lost in the mail after he posts it to himself. When Jack takes a gun to some sausages on the grill and feeds the dog a remote control, you can't help but wonder if he was dropped on his head as a child.
Inexplicable events continue, and you begin to realize that the cohesion of the plot isn't as important as the unique scenery of Australia, specifically the Hawkesbury River region of New South Wales. Oyster Farmer excels as a travelogue, showcasing a place that isn't always beautiful (with sketchy trailers and shacks galore), but is always colorful and defined by the surrounding waters. If the characters are overly whimsical and eccentric, the film's real meaning may be in simply accepting their unique way of life. The score by Stephen Warbeck perfectly matches the landscape and the motion of the water: bouncy, restless, and essentially lonely.
Luckily Oyster Farmer doesn't leave Jack lonely, giving him a love interest in local girl Pearl (yes, I know). Their longing glances, make-out sessions, and one sex scene don't add up to a meaningful relationship. But then, Reeves is content with the bumpy surface of her story without opening up the meat inside. (NR)