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The sun-bleached land gives no comfort to the lone driver as this prequel to the popular Australian film and series, Mystery Road, begins.

Now at the start of his law enforcement career, Aboriginal protagonist Jay Swan returns to his Outback town where he must contend with racism, cases, an alcoholic father, and the attractive Mary. 

Mark Coles Smith plays saturnine police constable Jay Swan well. So well, in fact, I wasn’t sure I’d like the “real Jay Swan,” now an older detective in the films and series, played by Aaron Pedersen. (I did; he’s excellent.) The 31-year-old Coles Smith has acted since 14 in TV shows like the Canadian Hard Rock Medical while Pedersen is an award-winner for depicting Swan.

Of the two original films Mystery Road (2013) and sequel Goldstone (2016)—and the 2018-2020 TV series Mystery Road—my husband and I voted prequel Mystery Road: Origin our favorite. It held the story close, allowing only small hints as one murder and then another shock the community. 

The cinematography is artful. Filmed in the dry northern reaches of Western Australia, you might feel the need to clear dust from your throat. Stars watch the violence, and in the stars, I felt a seeing presence. 

In deep relief, like the hills against that sky, is the racism the cop faces. The racism in a different country let me see more—to understand more—as did the poverty and dignity of those who wearily bore the prejudices. In a special feature, Pedersen, playing the older Swan, thought this study of racism “magnificent.” 

Viewer discretion is required with the language and subject matter. Violence abounds. The storylines are grim, but worthy. (ACORN TV/Amazon Prime)


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