2012 Certificate: pg


It's Dreamgirls meets The Commitments down under when a washed-up Irish musician (Chris O'Dowd) turns a trio of feisty Aboriginal sisters and their estranged cousin into a soul-singing sensation. Fame and fortune await - as long as they can make it through their first tour together. The only drawback is, it's of war-torn Vietnam. Get your groove on for an infectious spin on a true story that blows away fear, pride and prejudice with wit, heart and - oh yeah - soul.


  • Wayne Blair


  • Chris O'Dowd

  • Deborah Mailman

  • Jessica Mauboy

  • Shari Sebbens

  • Miranda Tapsell


Not since Robin Williams rocked it from the delta to the DMZ has the war in Vietnam produced a story with as much snap and sass as this. And you can take that to the bridge.

Liberally dramatised and a touch hackneyed as a result, The Sapphires none the less adds flavour to the traditional feelgood recipe (take one juicy tale of success against the odds, sprinkle with sugar and top lightly with cheese) with a heaped spoonful of dry wit and a marinade of pure soul.

It follows all singing, all arguing, all Aboriginal sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman, the eldest, responsible one), Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell, the vain middle one) and Julie (Jessica Mauboy, the wilful, youngest, mother-of-one) as they leave the prejudices of the 1968 Outback for the bright lights of... US occupied Saigon.

First-time director Wayne Blair sets it up at a fine tempo, first finding the girls a manager in boozy Irish rogue Dave Lovelace (O'Dowd) at a pub singing competition, then having him convert them from country to soul before bringing in their long-lost cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens, the Caucasian looking one) to make it a not-so-cosy foursome.

Under Dave's passionate - if not wholly reliable - management, The Sapphires are soon doing their bit for the boys in Vietnam. Unsurprisingly, some boys get a bit more than others.

The message of both the film and its music is obviously to make love, not war. But while made to entertain and thus never awfully explicit, it takes care to keep issues of race and prejudice to the forefront and puts their emotional ride in an historical context.

Anchored by the constantly engaging O'Dowd, the film gives each of its less familiar female stars (in this hemisphere at least) a chance to shine. Mailman makes a refreshingly unusual leading lady while the precocious Mauboy also looks to be going places.

Colourful yet rarely frivolous, Blair's style is ideally pitched to the journey's roof-raising highs and heart-sinking lows.

Throw in a battery of deadpan asides and a soundtrack that could make even the uncoolest cats purr and you'll have no worries about heading down this well-worn biopical road again.

Just let it slide and allow The Sapphires to bring a little harmony to your life.