The Road from Coorain, a film adaptation of Jill Ker Conway's best-selling memoir, is a lyrical look at one woman's experience growing up in the Australia of the 1940s and '50s. Born in 1934 on Coorain, her family's sheep station in the outback of New South Wales, Jill Ker Conway spends her first eleven years in a landscape that is dramatic and beautiful, but isolated and often harsh. Early on she learns the Australian "bush ethos" of stoicism, hard work, and self-sufficiency. Jill's powerful, demanding mother, Eve, also instills in her a love of books and learning, and Jill educates herself even as she works alongside her parents to run Coorain.
When eight years of drought kill nearly all the family's sheep and Jill's father dies trying to save the station, Eve takes Jill and her brothers to live in Sydney. There Jill first attends school and begins to exhibit the talent for scholarship that will ultimately enable her to leave Australia. But when Jill's beloved brother Bob dies in a car crash, Eve becomes overwhelmed with grief. Jill's sense of duty demands that she take care of her mother -- even at the cost of Jill's own happiness.
The complex, passionate relationship between mother and daughter is at the heart of this film. As Jill struggles to discover who she is apart from this confining bond, she realizes she must separate from her mother or lose herself. At the end of the film, Jill is about to leave for America, where she will study at Harvard and find the "sage distance" through which to make sense of herself, her family, and her country.
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