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"Jasper Jones" Is The Coming Of Age Movie We've Been Waiting For

There's more to this mystery than meets the eye.

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"Would you rather wear a hat made of spiders, or have penises for fingers?"


This question, posed by 13-year-old Jeffrey Lu, a Vietnamese boy living in the small Western Australian mining town of Corrigin, lingers in the air. His good mate Charlie Bucktin is forced to grapple with this impossible choice while dealing with his oncoming adolescence, the infrequent bickering of his parents, and - oh yeah - a dead girl in the bush.

Based on the 2009 novel of the same name, Jasper Jones is a mystery about a young girl's death, but it's also a coming-of-age story, and one of a town in turmoil. It's an ode to all things Australian – the good, the bad, and definitely the ugly.


The story follows Charlie, who is visited late one night by Jasper Jones, an Indigenous boy. Jasper asks for Charlie's help and leads him into the bush to reveal the body of Jasper's girlfriend, Laura Wishart, hanging from a tree.

As news of Laura's "disappearance" begins to spread throughout the small town, Jasper and Charlie race against the clock to find out what happened before the authorities pin the crime on Jasper. The film, set in the mid-'60s, doesn't hide the ugly side of the small, picturesque town, as Jasper knows his race puts him directly in the frame.

The young cast is rounded out with a few famous names who complement the newcomers without stealing their thunder.


The movie stars Levi Miller as Charlie, Aaron L. McGrath as Jasper, Kevin Long as Jeffrey, and Angourie Rice as Eliza, Laura's younger sister.

Toni Collette shines as Charlie's mother Ruth. Dan Wyllie plays Charlie's father Wes, and Hugo Weaving is Mad Jack Lionel.

The film contrasts the rural landscape's stunning scenery with the ugliness of its inhabitants. As façades begin to fall away, the true nature of the town seeps through.


The issues of race faced by Jasper and the Lu family, with whom Charlie is so close, remain relevant today, despite the story being set half a century ago.

The children in the film are saddled with resisting the ways of the past, which is a bridge too far for the older generations who – when forced to confront or even acknowledge their racism – turn their heads away sneering. Jasper Jones holds a mirror to the audience; we see our brutal history, and must ponder how far we've come, and how much further there is to go.

But it's not all doom and gloom. There is young love, discussions about Batman's legitimacy as a superhero, and, of course, the question of penises for fingers.

For the record, I'd pick the penises for fingers over a hat made of spiders any day.

Jasper Jones is in Australian cinemas now.