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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday February 1, 2020 

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Based on the bestselling memoir and directed by veteran Australian filmmaker Mark Joffe, Working Class Boy is both an inspiring story of rock and redemption told in Barnes' own words and an unflinchingly honest reflection on fame, creativity and depression. Fuelled by Barnes' riotous music and incredible stories taken from more than 40 years in the music business, the film presents a captivating and compassionate new portrait of one of our most beloved figures.

Review by Louise Keller:
Jimmy Barnes has always been the Working Class Man. The title song of his 1987 best selling album could have been written for him. 'A simple man with a heart of gold in a complicated land...' go the lyrics. The music film-clip imagery of Barnes screaming his lungs out at Port Kembla steelworks and Queensland cane fields is indelible in our minds. His curly, shoulder-length hair is drenched - from the heat of the fire behind him or is it from his energy, his passion and pain. But as the tagline goes: before the man comes the boy…

The story of Jimmy Barnes Working Class Boy is a hero's journey. In this potent documentary revealing all the trials and tribulations and personal demons, Barnes bares his soul as he shares his pain from his abused deprived childhood, when he was hungry, cold and afraid. Bringing Barnes' 2016 best selling memoir of the same name to the screen, director Mark Joffe has woven together an intricate portrait of a troubled boy whose journey to rockstar, husband and father of a clan takes place along a rocky, dirt road punctuated by pain and trauma. The many close ups revealing the ravages of age and lifestyle go a long way to reinforce the honesty of this revealing film.

The film comprises interviews, footage of Barnes' stage show of the same name and musical highlights, including a moving onstage musical reunion with his son David Campbell, who was brought up by his maternal grandparents. Another highlight is Barnes onstage with daughter Mahalia (named after Mahalia Jackson), delivering a rousing version of Wimaweh. The fact that Barnes can now admit that he is beginning to like himself, is a testament to a warrior who has won both the battle and the war.

It may surprise some that there is more talk than music. But there is much to say. And it is all said in Barnes' own words (through interviews with Margaret Throsby), as he opens up his heart and allows himself to be vulnerable. Born James Dixson Swan, much of the film concentrates on the early years as a boy in Glasgow, where he lived with his violent stand-over man dad and damaged mother. Delivered by his granny on the kitchen floor in 1956, he was a14lb baby born screaming. And he has been screaming ever since.

The horrors of life in Glasgow continue when his parents and five siblings immigrate to Australia in 1961. He calls the family home in Elizabeth, South Australia 'a horror house', where alcohol abuse and extreme violence is the norm. Barnes' recollections of instances of family violence are both shocking and moving. A fractured family, an absent mother, a savior of a new father (Reg Barnes, whose name he took) and the discovery of sex, drugs and rock'n roll follow.

The film plays a little long and I would have liked a little more punctuation by music. Also, a little more about the transition from wild child to family man. Watch for the interviews with wife Jane, the exotic beauty who brings calm into Barnes' tumultuous life.

It's an engaging interlude and an intriguing insight into an Australian legend.

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(Aus, 2018)

CAST: Documentary with Jimmy Barnes

PRODUCER: Mark Joffe

DIRECTOR: Mark Joffe

SCRIPT: Jimmy Barnes (based on book & stage production Working Class Boy)


EDITOR: Mark Perry

MUSIC: Benjamin Rodgers


RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes



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