Still grieving, Joe takes a questionable and at times worrying laissez-faire approach to parenting (he calls it ‘just say yes’) as he tries to juggle work with child-rearing and at the same time maintain relations with a difficult mother-in-law and repair his bond with Harry (George MacKay), a teenage son from a previous marriage who breaks off his public-school education in Britain to come and stay with his father. ‘The moment you think you’re… sorted is the moment it all starts falling apart,’ says Owen’s downbeat but sympathetic voiceover.
The material may sound sentimental, but director Scott Hicks (‘Shine’) mostly avoids soppiness, even if he’s not afraid to make the odd desperate plea for empathy, and a final-reel chapter in the UK is jarring in its need for easy resolution. Hicks is well served by an endearing Owen, whose performance must rank as one of his best, and some beautiful photography from rising Aussie Greig Fraser (‘Bright Star’), whose landscape shots give us room to breathe away from domestic mayhem. Hicks’s directing style is straightforward and unfussy – a description you could apply to this big-hearted film as a whole.