Film Review: The True History of the Kelly Gang – as part of the Glasgow Film Festival

True, I do love history – I am a history student after all. And Justin Kurzel’s 19th-century story The True History of the Kelly Gang definitely seemed like my sort of thing. 
The film started off promising. I was very much keen on the setting of 19th century Australia and seeing the cramped living conditions that our cast of outlaws resided in. The film managed to capture the hardship of the bushrangers well, exploring the troubled childhood of protagonist Ned Kelly in an intriguing way.

The film had a stellar cast, particularly in its insanely talented young actor trio of George MacKay, Nicholas Hoult, and Thomasin McKenzie. And yet I’ll be perfectly honest – I preferred MacKay in 1917, I rooted more for Hoult in Tolkien than I did here, and Mackenzie was at her best in Jojo Rabbit.

What is also true is that I wasn’t too keen on the plot. I realise that the film was not quite what I’d hoped it would be. A week later and many aspects of the plot remain hazy and forgettable, lost in the sea of other, more memorable films I watched at GFF. There were times when I was very much confused with The True History of the Kelly Gang and uncertain with what was going on. At first, I wasn’t even sure which country the film was set in. It took me some time to realise we were in Australia and not in Ireland, as I had previously thought.

At the Q&A after the screening, George MacKay, who was charming and quite the English gentleman, unlike the violent guy we had seen on screen a mere ten minutes ago, gave additional insight into just how much work went into this role. And some of it was surprising – as part of his research for the role he had to start up a punk band and play in public! If George Mackay had not played Ned Kelly in The True History of the Kelly Gang, he believes he may not have gone on to secure his role in 1917. Ned Kelly prepared him for the gruesome scenes in the heavily awarded WW1 film by pushing him to limits he had previously thought were unimaginable.

Overall, it is true that I still love history – but maybe not this film. You know those films that a few months later you can barely remember the plot of, let alone remember the title? The sort of film that you can only vaguely remember after an IMDb search? I fear The True History of the Kelly Gang is to be one of those films.

More information on the Glasgow Film Festival is available here.

[Emilija Morrison – she/her – @emilijakatinas]

[Image Credit: “True History of the Kelly Gang” trailer on IMDb]

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