The feature debut of filmmaker, playwright, author and actor Leah Purcell is a searing retelling of Henry Lawson’s 1892 short story. Expanded from Purcell’s own award-winning stage adaptation into a tremendously compelling Outback Western, it reclaims and reimagines Lawson’s story – a classic of colonial literature – from an Indigenous feminist perspective, depicting the struggles of a woman caught between two cultures.
Australia, 1893: Molly Johnson’s (Purcell) husband is away droving cattle, leaving her alone to care for their four children at their remote Snowy Mountains homestead. Despite being heavily pregnant, Molly is a formidable frontierswoman and keeps most threats – whether from nature and other people – at bay. But when Yadaka (Rob Collins), an Aboriginal man on the run from white law enforcement, intrudes on the sanctuary she has carved out, she is forced to confront truths about her past that place them both in danger.
A study of Indigenous female identity in late 1800s Australia, The Drover’s Wife interrogates not only the country’s past, but also the lingering social injustices of the present day. Purcell brings a powerful female gaze to the traditionally male Western, casting an eye on feminist, indigenous and First Nation issues, through a narrative which has at its core a story of love, protection and the survival of family.