The trademark for Australian cinema has been the inspiring drama about the everyday, and Paper Planes (out now in Australia) is definitely not rocking the boat. The film is centred around 12 year old Dylan, who lives in rural Western Australia, and has recently lost his mother. At school one day, his class is taught how to make paper planes, told that if they can make theirs fly 25 metres, they can go to the Australian championships in Sydney and, if successful, they can go to the world championships in Japan.
The plot is as predictable as many of its contemporaries, both kids films and Australian films – there’s bullies that must learn lessons by the end, a loudmouth kid that the main character befriends, quirky teachers and mentors, and fathers to reconnect with (Dylan’s father is played by Sam Worthington, and ‘mean kid’ Jason’s dad is played by David Wenham) – but the key to Paper Planes’s success is making the art of folding paper interesting and exciting (a boring concept on – ha – paper), and that’s something Connolly achieves. The contest scenes, while having an inevitable end (come on, it’s a kids film, what do you expect?), is nonetheless necessarily heart pounding and exhilarating, and offers ample drama.
While it’s needlessly dramatic beyond those scenes (Connolly’s attempts to make “something for the parents” in the form of Dylan and his father navigating their grief make the film uneven and tired at times) and loses focus of what it should be (a fun film about kids throwing paper planes), Paper Planes is a very sweet time at the cinema, with another great performance from 13 year old Ed Oxenbould (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), who really knows how to carry a film.