Mike (Greg Rowe) is overjoyed when Mr Percival, his pet pelican, returns after being set free.
Summary by Paul Byrnes
Some of the most charming scenes in the film as boy and bird become inseparable.
A 10-year-old boy (Greg Rowe), living with his father in the wild Coorong wetlands of South Australia, rescues a baby pelican orphaned by hunters. With the help of an Aboriginal man, Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil), the boy and the bird become inseparable, until the outside world encroaches.
Storm Boy, based on a novel by Colin Thiele, is one of the most cherished of Australian classic films. It has a deep emotional clarity that appeals to children and adults alike, making it timeless. The landscape of the Coorong wetlands, bleak and beautiful and windswept, becomes a refuge for the broken, the loveless and the outcast – an alternate Garden of Eden, in which a different version of Australia might seem possible – a kind of hermit’s utopia.
The film is clearly about much more than the boy’s love of the pelican, which he calls Mr Percival. It touches on race relations, ecology, the breakdown of families, white and black law and questions of prior ownership, but the themes are seamlessly woven into the story. Much of the power comes from the elemental beauty of Geoff Burton’s camerawork (his work on Sunday Too Far Away, with a different colour palette, has a similar expressiveness), and from director Henri Safran’s sensitive handling of the performances. The film was made for $260,000 and was a success at the box office, both in Australia and overseas, where it sold to more than 100 countries.
Notes by Paul Byrnes
This clip shows 'Hideaway’ Tom Kingsley (Peter Cummins) trying to comfort a despondent 'Storm Boy’ (Greg Rowe) after he has released the pelican Mr Percival into the wild. As Tom gruffly explains to his son that wild things should be free, Mr Percival’s call is heard. Storm Boy rushes up the beach toward the bird, while his father looks on. This is followed by a sequence showing Storm Boy and Mr Percival together, which demonstrates the bond between the two but also underscores how important Mr Percival is as a companion to Storm Boy.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
Mike is walking along the beach with a sad face.
Mike’s father There’s no use fretting, son. Didn’t know you’d be upset that much. Anyway, wild things should be free.
Mike looks up and sees his pet pelican standing on a pole.
Mike He’s come back! Dad, he’s come back! Mr Percival’s come back!
Mike runs towards Mr Percival and the pelican flies off the pole to greet Mike.
Mike pulls out the sail on his boat and the pelican joins him out at sea.
Mike is on the beach with Fringerbone Bill and Mr Percival. Fingerbone Bill is twining grass into a cat’s cradle-like formation which he shows to Mike.
Fingerbone Bill This is where Mr Percival appear. See? What’s that, Storm Boy?
Mike It’s a pelican’s nest.
Fingerbone Bill Right.
In a succession of short scenes, we see Mike and Mr Percival playing and sharing each other’s company on the beach and in the water.