When Michael Kingley’s granddaughter Maddy rebels against her father, he’s forced to act to prevent her going down a painful path, similar to one he took years earlier. He tells her of his formative experience, when, as “Storm Boy,” he lived a lonely existence with his father Hideaway Tom on the isolated Coorong, South Australia, and formed a bond with an orphaned pelican, Mr. Percival, that changed his life forever. Based on the popular novel by Colin Thiele.
Storm Boy tells a simple story remarkably well by carefully capturing and distilling the ebb and flow of regret throughout the film. Early in the film we find that Michael’s stoic father lives in a constant state of deep regret because of a family tragedy he could have prevented. His relationship with Michael suffers as he pursues drinking instead of healing. Soon, a lonely Michael rescues an orphaned pelican he names Mr. Percival and finds great joy in caring for it. In the process of raising the bird, Michael and his dad grow closer. However, in the midst of their happiness, tragedy strikes again, and Michael angrily abandons his relationship with his father—something he deeply regretted later in life. Many years later, Michael tells this unusual story to his granddaughter in hopes that she won’t make the same mistake. The film ends with hope as Michael’s granddaughter is encouraged to repair her relationship with her own father.
Storm Boy is set in Australia, and both the past and present storylines within the film deal with similar themes of conservation. I suppose that the film could be called an environmental drama, but unlike many films in this genre, it does so much more than simply push an agenda for environmentalism’s sake. Rather, Storm Boy speaks of good stewardship, not only of the natural world, but of relationships and ideals as well. It speaks of building deep connections with nature and others that are profoundly rewarding rather than practicing good stewardship solely to avoid negative consequences. It’s a different more powerful kind of environmentalism that stems from personal transformation.
The Dove Take:
Storm Boy is a deeply touching film about holistic stewardship that shows characters in an intimate light as they learn how to protect what they love.