The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) – Peter Weir

Mel Gibson headlines in his second film with director Peter Weir, and the next title on the What Else to Watch list from DK Canada’s The Movie Book following its recommendation of Picnic at Hanging Rocl.

Set in the mid-60s, Gibson is Guy Hamilton, an Australian journalist (and not the English director of four James Bond films).  Assigned to Indonesia, where he is covering the rule of President Sukarno (Mike Empirio), he finds himself embroiled in a love affair, as well as moral quandaries, as the world seems to come apart around him.

He pairs up with, and befriends, diminutive photographer Billy Kwan (in a breakthrough and Oscar winning performance by Linda Hunt) who may be more than he seems, and has files and photos on everyone he interacts with.

But Billy likes Guy, and the two become the hot new team in Indonesia, getting information, and pictures out to the world. Their friendship will come at a cost, however, when Guy is forced to choose between his emotions and his need for the next big story.

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Things get complicated when Guy begins a relationship with British diplomat, Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver).  There is the possibility, much like with Billy, that she may be more than just a diplomat, but the story is more focused on Guy’s character, and the choices he makes and how they affect him and those around him.

Weir orchestrates his film in his typical fashion, not quite dreamlike, but very poetic in its visual style, and it, much like the majority of Weir’s films is beautiful to look at. Gibson and Weaver are both young and vibrant in the film, and they make for a good pairing, though it’s a little jarring to hear her speak with an English accent.

Hunt is great as Billy, and watching the little photographer manipulate, and allow, things to happen, while realizing that there are things beyond his control (something that is revealed when we learn how ‘native’ he has gone, and the emotional cost of that).

I like how the climax plays out, as things Guy thought he knew are shown wrong, and those closest to him may not be who he thought he was, and by film’s end, he needs to make a literal choice between his career and his heart.

Based on the novel by C.J. Koch, the story while fictional, is set during an actual turbulent time in Indonesia, and the rule of Sukarno.

This was a solid, and moving film that makes for a very nice entry  in DK Books’ The Movie Book, and if that one doesn’t catch your fancy, pick up a copy and find a new to you classic tonight!

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