For a few years at the turn of the century, I lived within a short walk of Philadelphia’s three Ritz theater complexes, which specialized in art, foreign and independent films. It wasn’t unusual for me to go to a movie alone on weeknights after work. The theaters were often close to empty, and I enjoyed the feeling of solitude.
Of all the films I saw during that period, an endearing Australian comedy called The Castle stands out for being one of my all-time favorite comic movies while remaining largely unknown in the United States. Star Michael Caton’s brilliant performance – as funny as any I’ve seen on screen – has to be the lead reason the film is considered a classic in Australia.
While his character, Darryl Kerrigan, has plenty of funny lines throughout, it’s the way he displays the deep pride and love he so clearly feels for his beloved family that makes the performance.
When his wife, Sal, brings dinner to the table in a tray she made, he asks, “How’d you do that?” When she replies that it was just a spray can and stencil, he looks at her lovingly and says in a reverent tone, “You could sell that.”
His fawning over everything Sal serves the family to eat is one of the film’s highlights, as is his pride in his son Steve’s corny inventions.
The Castle’s plot is a fairly formulaic feel-good story that is made by the strength of the characters and first-rate performances from the entire cast.
The Kerrigans live in a house that happens to be next door to a major airport and huge power lines. That might be a turn-off to some people, but not them. They deeply love their home, while Darryl views power lines as a sign of man’s ability to harness electricity; a fact that he frequently stands around marveling at.
The family’s seemingly ideal situation appears to be in serious jeopardy when they – and all of their neighbors – are notified that their homes are being torn down to make way for an airport expansion.
But Darryl has no intention of giving up his home without a fight.
I won’t give away any more details, as some of you may wish to watch the film.
Here is the opening sequence, in which the family is introduced by the youngest son, who is also the film’s narrator.
And here it is in its entirety. For those of you who wish to see it with better sound and video quality, it’s available on various streaming services.