Why isn’t Luke Hemsworth doing more roles like this?

BOSCH AND ROCKIT ★★★½

(MA15+) 102 minutes

Bosch and Rockit is the first feature of Tyler Atkins, who’s difficult to categorise. He grew up surfing on the Gold Coast. He starred in six episodes of Puberty Blues in 2012 and spent six years in Hollywood, working in the film industry. Atkins is most often photographed in a turban because he is a dedicated Sikh, rising early each day to meditate.

Luke Hemsworth and Rasmus King impress as a father and son in the autobiographical Bosch and Rockit.

Some of that makes more sense once you have seen Bosch and Rockit, the autobiographical story of a teenage boy’s relationship with his loving but unreliable father, a Northern Rivers marijuana grower. It’s set in the 1990s, before mobile phones became ubiquitous. Luke Hemsworth plays Bosch, the father. He does a superb job of making this man seem real – so much so I wish he did more roles like this. Newcomer Rasmus King plays Rockit, who’s somewhere between 12 and 15, depending on what the scene demands.

The movie is all over the place in that sense, but not in a terrible way. The structure is too loose to work as a thriller – not that it cares to. Atkins wants to depict his childhood: everything else is secondary. On that basis, the movie succeeds.

King, probably 14 when cast, seems incapable of a false moment as Rockit, a kid who just wants to surf and get his separated parents back together. He is innocent, affectionate, less worldly than he looks. He dreams only of becoming a pro-surfer; he is happiest when surfing with his dad. And for once, the surfing scenes are authentic because both actors are accomplished in the water. (King, from Byron, is already a pro-surfer).

The region looks like the Garden of Eden, yet there is trouble in paradise. A corrupt local detective (Martin Sacks) delivers Bosch an ultimatum: sell a brick-sized block of cocaine or go down for growing large amounts of the north coast’s favourite herb. Bosch is terrified: we’re just farmers, he protests. As a bushfire rages toward him, he grabs the kid, the boards and the cash and heads for Byron Bay to lie low.

The heart of the movie, the father-son relationship, is moving and complicated, as it should be. The plot swirling around them is often messy, with underdeveloped characters and too many dreamy diversions where music and landscape take over to evoke mood. This is a young director favouring mood over plot, soundtrack over action, like thousands before him. The last act needed a disciplined edit, but I can understand the constraints.

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