Picks and Pans Review: Kangaroo

updated 04/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

This screen version of D.H. Lawrence's semi-autobiographical novel about his self-imposed exile to Australia in 1922 is a showcase for some strong performances, by Colin Friels, as Lawrence, and Judy (A Passage to India) Davis, as his German-born wife. Down Under, Friels encounters a country with "no history. Nothing has been paid for in blood." But he soon finds himself caught between a blue-collar socialist faction and a revolutionary group of World War I vets led by the title character, a misguided fascist ably played by Hugh (Mad Max) Keays-Byrne. In this truly foreign land—and in their sometimes strained, sometimes passionate relationship—Davis is the willful catalyst, Friels the introspective observer. She is taken aback by the male-dominated society; he takes detailed notes on its colorful speech. Friels is a versatile, subtle actor. He won Australia's 1986 Best Actor award for his performance as the slow-witted title character in last year's comedy Malcolm. Davis, who won Best Actress for this role, is frail yet inwardly stalwart. Spouses in real life, they are a captivating pair. Add Tim Burstall's solid direction and some beautiful photography, and Kangaroo is a solid pleasure. (R)

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