Film Review – My Name is Gulpilil (2021)

Title – My Name is Gulpilil (2021)

Director – Molly Reynolds (Twelve Canoes) 

Cast – David Gulpilil, Mary Reefed

Plot – A self-reflective and warts and all examination of the life of legendary Indigenous Australian actor David Gulpilil whose battle with lung cancer has sadly made life without the long serving artist a very real and imminent prospect. 

“This is my story of my story”

Review by Eddie on 05/08/2021

After making his stunning debut in Nicholas Roeg’s unforgettable Australian set drama Walkabout as a teenager, Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil has become a national treasure, appearing in some of the countries most noteworthy films along his incredible career. 

Key roles in the likes of Storm Boy, Crocodile Dundee, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Tracker, The Proposition and Charlie’s Country have ensured that there aren’t many more iconic figures in the local industry than the award winning actor, who now sadly aged into his 60’s faces an imminent passing at the hands of lung cancer, a fight that is here documented in Molly Reynolds raw and uncompromising documentary My Name is Gulpilil. 

Produced by one of Gulpilil’s closes friends, director Rolf de Heer, My Name was filmed over the span of four years as Reynolds joins Gulpilil and care giver Mary in a warts and all examination of Gulpilil’s story as told by the man himself, there are no talking heads here, this is Gulpilil’s story and he wants to tell it in his own unique way, that makes for an at times heartwarming and other times unfocussed viewing. 

For a life so well-lived and eccentric, arriving from the bush into the movies and then alongside the Queen for dinner, Gulpilil’s life is one that wouldn’t be able to be conjured up by even the wildest of imaginations but its a shame that Reynolds wasn’t able to keep her exploration of the man more focused, as the film frequently veers from subject matters without much care or consideration, feeling like a film that would’ve benefited greatly from following a more traditional approach for a very un-traditional person. 

A key for the film is Gulpilil’s endless charm and charisma, whilst he is here a frail and often forlorn figure, there’s still a passionate soul underneath his withered exterior and he is unafraid to confront the ghosts of his past that includes battles with domestic violence and drug/alcohol abuse and hearing him talk openly about these instances in his life as well as his passion for his culture and craft makes for fascinating viewing around a once in a lifetime human. 

While it appears as though the inevitable is approaching faster than Gulpilil or we’d care to admit, there’s little doubt that when the sun sets on the life of one of cinema’s great icons, there’s a legacy here that will live long into the future, a career that has entered into many minds and hearts and inspired countless others to follow in the footsteps of a pioneer who paved his own path. 

Final Say – 

A documentary that can frustrate with its aimless nature but enchant with its honest depiction of a living legend, My Name is Gulpilil is a fitting enough swansong for an Australian actor that will go down as one of the most important figures in the industries history. 

3 birthday cakes out of 5 

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