Charlie's Country

Charlie's Country Summary and Analysis of Part 3


In his shelter, Charlie reads the wrinkled letter and says aloud that he isn’t a recreational shooter, he is a hunter. He says he danced for the Queen of England when “they opened that building.” He says “I bet you never did that.”

Charlie is at the community medical center for a medical checkup. The white doctor tells him that his lungs are in bad shape, so it is good he quit smoking. The doctor says no more ganja, and he has to eat better. Charlie removes his dentures and says he can’t eat with them, but he can’t eat without them: he is starving. The doctor says he has to wait for the dentist to come.

On the ground by his fire, Charlie fashions a spear from a stick. Local boys stand by and ask him why. He says it is for hunting. Charlie tells them to go away when they ask why he doesn’t use a gun. In the next scene, Charlie watches the elderly wheelchair-bound man being loaded into a plane on its way to Darwin. He looks very upset as he watches the engines start and the plane take off. He holds his spear. Once the plane is gone, Charlie gives a small wave. He appears to be on the verge of tears.

Walking on the road, Charlie is stopped by Luke, who asks about his spear. Luke says it is beautiful but he’ll have to take it, saying it’s a dangerous weapon and he’ll have to destroy it. He drives off with the spear. Charlie gets angry and says, “Well fuck you then.”

Watching the flames of his fire, Charlie mutters to himself, cursing “those white bastards.” The next day, Charlie stands outside the police station and shouts in his language, asking why the bastards had to come there anyway. Charlie goes to the cash office and demands his money. It is unclear whether he is given any.

Charlie steals a white Hyundai undercover car from outside the police station that is left unattended. He goes to Pete’s shelter. Charlie says he is borrowing it because they stole Pete’s truck, his gun, and his spear. He says he works for them catching criminals but they don’t pay him. He says they stole his land and put a police station on it. Meanwhile, he loads Pete’s possessions into the car. Pete goes along with it. He asks where they are going. Charlie says to “live the old way.”

The men laugh as they drive toward the bush, to their “Mother Country,” where they used to sleep as kids and hunt. However, the fuel runs out on the road. Both men seem to think it is funny more than disappointing. They say goodbye and abandon the car, walking separate ways.

Charlie walks alone into the bush, through tall grass and sparsely planted deciduous trees. Soft piano music plays. Charlie sleeps on the ground beside a small fire. In the morning, he finds a small root vegetable in the soil and roasts in on embers. “Good tucker,” he says as it cooks, “our food.”

Charlie fashions another spear out of sticks and twine. Shirtless in his jeans, he walks into the bush (undeveloped land). There is the sound of birdsong and soft piano music still playing. At night he sleeps before a fire again. The next day he walks with his spear again, hunting for food.

Sitting under a small shelter of palm fronds, he paints on a piece of bark, commenting that it is “not bad.” He spears a barramundi fish, which he cooks whole in the ashes of his fire. He talks to the fish about how well-cooked it is as he takes the white flesh out and eats it. He says it is very good. He laughs and says he is eating well in “his own supermarket.”


Angry at the absurdity of being ticketed for “recreational shooting” when he was engaged in the disappearing cultural practice of hunting for sustenance, Charlie sits alone in his shelter and reminds himself of who he really is when not defined by restrictive white settler laws. He repeats that he is a hunter. He reminds himself that he once performed a traditional dance for the Queen of England at the opening of the Sydney Opera House, a high point of pride in his life.

The film continues to explore the issue of racial animus, ongoing settler colonialism, substance abuse, and deteriorating health conditions with Charlie’s visit to the doctor. The community is underserved generally, and the government provides health services on an occasional basis when a doctor visits from the city to provide checkups. The audience learns Charlie has quit smoking tobacco—a substance introduced by colonizers—because his lungs are in poor condition. The doctor advises him to eat better, an ignorant thing to say when Charlie’s recent attempt at procuring wild food resulted in a ticket and the confiscation of his “bushmeat.”

Charlie also reveals that he needs new dentures in order to eat, but the doctor unhelpfully tells him to wait for a dentist to visit the community. The theme of deteriorating health conditions continues with a scene in which Charlie mournfully watches the man with kidney trouble be loaded into a medical helicopter. Tears form in his eyes at the injustice of another elder taken from the community to die alone in Darwin. In this delicate state, Charlie suffers another injustice when Luke confiscates the spear he has spent his day crafting from a branch. The exercise of power tips Charlie over the edge, and when he cannot get any more money to feed himself, he steals a police cruiser as revenge.

De Heer touches on the themes of isolation and disappearing cultural practices when Charlie makes his escape into the bush, where he intends to “live in the old way,” hunting for sustenance as his ancestors did. Hoping to bring Pete along, Charlie loads the cruiser with Pete’s possessions and they drive away. However, in an instance of situational irony, the cop car runs out of petrol before the men reach their destination. In a similarly unbothered manner, the men laugh over the failure to get away. In good humor they part ways and Charlie heads into the bush alone, a decision that foreshadows his eventual need for rescue.

Already an isolated figure, Charlie deepens his aloneness by forging into the undeveloped hinterlands around his community to hunt for food. Renewing near-forgotten cultural practices, he paints on bark, builds a palm-frond shelter, crafts spears, and catches himself a barramundi fish. Charlie’s experiment in reconnecting with his cultural roots seems to be working out well, and he rejoices at having found good food in his own natural supermarket, far away from the damaging influences of colonialism.