Parer’s War is a biopic of Damian Parer, an Australian frontline photographer and filmographer of WWII. It’s a moving and revealing depiction of the realities of the war in the Pacific, and its perception ‘back home’ by ordinary Australians.
Parer, played with nuance and grit by Matthew Le Nevez, is a devout Catholic who is sent on numerous assignments to the dense jungles of the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea during the later stages of the war. Travelling frequently between the muddy and violent battlefields and home to Australia, Parer struggles with reconciling the difficulties and suffering in the islands with the seemingly carefree lifestyle of his compatriots back home; Most notably seen in his disjointed relationship with his sweetheart, Marie, (Adelaide Clemens), whom he struggles to commit to.
Parer’s other struggle is the way in which is footage is used by CineSound pictures, the company that produces his films. He wants the realities of the war in the Pacific to be shown: the challenges faced by the troops, the difficulty of fighting a skilled enemy in almost hand-to-hand combat, the oppressive climate. The producers want all action, morale-boosting jingoism and Parer himself, who was promoted heavily to become the face of the war. He ultimately became the first Australian to win an Academy Award for his work in the Pacific theatre.
The film is an engaging watch, despite a pace that would be called steady rather than gripping. This is due largely to its accurate, and chronological portrayal of the real story. There is some clever use of Parers’ original black and white footage, which is artfully interspersed with the authentically-recreated battle scenes of the film. We get a clear sense of Parer’s inner conflict through the frequent shots of him saying his rosary both in the field and back home. The relationship dynamic between Parer and Marie is well communicated as at times very strained by the pressures of his absence, and the emotional toll the war takes on him. The supporting cast create a strong backdrop to a story that is very focussed on its lead man and his remarkable story.
Parer’s War is not a high-action, high-drama biopic, but rather an insightful and informative glimpse into the life of one of Australia’s pivotal, yet relatively-unknown war correspondents.
Parer’s War is now available to rent and buy on DVD or Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Natalie Ridler