Little Tornadoes – movie review

Director Aaron Wilson has crafted a beautifully shot, sensitive story about love, loss and yearning with Little Tornadoes.

We’re in small town, rural Australia in 1971. Leo (Mark Leonard Winter) is a steelworker whose wife has just left him without explanation. One day she just packed up all her things and disappeared. All that remains is one red dress, lipstick and two hairbrushes. Leo has two young primary school age children – daughter Maudey (Minnie Liszukiewicz) and son Jack (Freddy Liszukiewicz). Although hoping she will return (this isn’t the first time she has gone away), Leo knows deep down that she won’t. He doesn’t say much. His farmer father, Jim (Robert Menzies) – scarred by his wartime experience and by the loss of his wife – says even less.

In fact, Jim has all but shut himself off from the world and Leo has to plead with him to spend time with his grandchildren. Leo has flashbacks about his wife and mother. He is not above self-harm. His mate at the factory is Italian immigrant Tony (Fabio Motta), who – too – has experienced loss. He recognises that Leo is struggling and can’t cook and suggests Leo engage his sister Maria (Silvia Colloca) to provide some stability for the kids. She readily accepts and becomes a Godsend for the children … and Leo. Connection is the key.

Little Tornadoes is a story about ghosts and how one navigates the minefield known as life. It has been written by the author of The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas, along with Wilson. There’s a lot to unpack here. Immigration, post-war resettlement, urbanisation, anti-Vietnam war protests and the women’s liberation movement all play a part in the change that is taking place. Words may be in short supply, but the silences speak volumes.

The detail in the film – from the shot selection by cinematographer Stefan Duscio (The Dry) to the music choices and news bites used to provide context – is impressive. The narration – reflective and incisive – provided by Maria add a great deal.

I appreciated the performances, the adults required to take a less-is-more approach. There is an intensity to Mark Leonard Winter and joie de vivre about Silvia Colloca. The children, the Liszukiewiczs, too, seemed quite natural.

Little Tornadoes is a fine Australian film that unfolds with conviction. It should be seen.

Little Tornadoes is in limited release

Alex First

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