For, Aug. 8, 2014

In the late 1970s and early '80s there was a real influx of Australian films in the American movie marketplace. Some gained attention on the art-house circuit ("Picnic at Hanging Rock," "My Brilliant Career," "Breaker Morant," "Gallipoli") while others earned a more mainstream following ("Mad Max," "The Man From Snowy River," " ‘Crocodile' Dundee").

And some were critical successes without any significant box-office impact but are still fondly remembered by those of us who saw them. In this category is "Careful, He Might Here You" (1984, PG), a stirring, low-key melodrama that has just received a DVD release after being out of print for a decade or more.


     Young Nicholas Gledhill, Wendy Hughes, 'Careful, He Might Hear You'

Top-billed is the versatile Wendy Hughes, who earned the Australian equivalent of the Oscar for her role in this film, which is set in the 1930s. She plays a wealthy ice queen who is so isolated and entitled that she seems blissfully unaware there the Depression is going on around her.

The focus, however, is actually on a young boy (Nicholas Gledhill) who has been taken in and is being raised by Hughes' working-class sister and brother-in-law. The boy is actually the son of a third sister and her ne'er-do-well husband, who abandoned the child.

Hughes comes on the scene attempting to win the boy over, to make him her own son. She actually doesn't care about him but has eyes on his father and hopes this act of apparent charity will bring him around. And at first, as she showers the lad with material things his adopted family cannont provide, it appears that this may do the trick.


"Careful, He Might Hear You" is an engrossing, thoroughly involving film, and the childhood perspective is captured very well and in a universal manner. What makes this movie so special is the way we immediately come to care for the boy and then his guardians, and begin to feel deeply the agony they are going through.

And, despite her unpleasant, unhappy character, we also come to care about, or more accurately, feel sorry, for Hughes' character.

This film was part of an amazing period for Australian cinema, which was in its way akin to the rock-music British invasion of the 1960s. The universality of so many movies and their reach in touching audiences around the world occurred in a burst of artistry that was wonderful to behold.