(director/writer: Robert Connnolly; screenwriter: based on the book Blueback by Tim Winton/Winton; cinematographers: Andrew Commis/underwater photography-Rick Rifici; editor: Nick Meyers; music: Nigel Westlake; cast: Radha Mitchell (Dora), Mia Wasakowska(Abby), Eric Bana (Macka), Clarence Ryan (Briggs), Ilsa Fogg (Teen Abby), Liz Alexander (Older Dora), Ariel Donoghue (Young Abby), Albert Mwangi (Gitundu), Pedrea Jackson (Teen Briggs), Erik Thomson (Costello), Eddie Baroo (Merv); runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Robert Connnolly/James Grandison/Liz Kearney; Amor Media/VOD release; 2022-Australia)

“Dazzles with brilliant underwater photography.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A pleasant and earnest but unexciting family adventure story directed by the Aussie Robert Connolly (“The Dry”/”The Turning”). It’s based on the Aussie Tim Winton’s 1997 novella and is co-written by Winton and Connolly. The preachy pro-environmental film nevertheless dazzles with brilliant underwater photography and beautiful visuals of the ocean in Western Australia. But its story is a bit soggy even if it’s tender.

The marine biologist and underwater diver Abby (Mia Wasikowska) returns to her coastal hometown near Perth after her mentor environmental activist, underwater diver mother, Dora (Radha Mitchell), suffers a severe stroke. All her life she was fighting poachers, polluters and unethical local developers in her hometown of the Ningaloo Reef.

The story builds no momentum with too many underdeveloped subplots, but as a coming-of-age sea saga with a good political message (get involved to make a difference so the world is better) it gets over with some stunning photography and a satisfying story about mom and daughter reconciling their love for each other after the daughter resented that mom didn’t spend enough time with her when she was a child.

As a landlubber I learned groupers are called bluebacks.

It played at the Sundance Film Festival.

Mia Wasikowska in Blueback