Charlie's Country

Charlie's Country Summary and Analysis of Part 4


Having eaten, Charlie stands and says he is free now, with lots of fish in his own supermarket. He jumps up and says he can dance now. That night, rain falls, putting out his fire slowly before growing in intensity. The torrential rain lasts into the day. Charlie sits under his shelter until he goes out with his spear, looking worried.

Charlie sits in the mud before his spent fire. He is soaking wet. He leaves with his rucksack and spears. Eventually, he walks to another area where the rains have stopped. He is still deep in the bush and seems to be venturing deeper. The landscape is wide open and green below the ridge on which he walks. In time the sun comes out and the birds sing again. Charlie keeps walking, his destination unclear to the viewer. He coughs.

Charlie stops before a rock wall and sits down, building a small fire. He says aloud that the ancestors used to sit by the fire and eat ashes. He says they are all gone, no one’s left. He coughs again.

While he sleeps, the camera follows the seemingly ancestral markings on the rock wall. Small figures of people and animals are drawn in red. Faint, ghostlike sounds of chants and voices can be heard. In the morning, Charlie gets out from under the rock overhang and continues on, walking back in the direction he came from.

Coughing with greater frequency, Charlie returns to his first spot in the bush. The rains are coming down again. He holds his stomach and stumbles as he finds his palm-frond shelter. He is very skinny and coughing a lot.

Charlie wakes up to find the rain has stopped. He continues to lie on his back as he looks at a crinkled photo of himself at the Sydney Opera House. Soft piano music plays. Charlie talks about how the Queen was there, and she opened the Opera House. He was just a boy, and he danced for the Queen at the event.

Charlie passes in and out of sleep as the rain comes and goes. Another day passes. He mutters to himself about how he can see his mother. Eventually Pete walks up to Charlie. Pete says, “Fucking hard to find.” The scene cuts to Charlie being reprimanded by a white doctor while he lies on an examination table. The doctor says Charlie has to go to Darwin.

With an oxygen tube in his nostrils, Charlie is flown to the hospital in Darwin. Once there, he lies in a bed on a breathing machine. At night he is no longer on the machine but breathing on his own. A white doctor comes to the bedside and asks if he minds if he calls him Charlie, because he has “difficulty pronouncing foreign names.” Charlie says in his language, “So now I’m the foreigner, am I?” The doctor says they found him in the bush. Charlie says he was born in the bush, they didn’t find him in the bush. The doctor says he sees he still has his sense of humor. In his language, Charlie says, “I want a doctor.”

Attached to a mobile IV drip, Charlie walks down the hospital corridor and finds the elderly man with kidney trouble who was earlier seen airlifted to Darwin. Charlie holds the man’s hands and sits beside him. Both men have large hands and long fingernails. Charlie weeps and says, “Fuck this… we have to go home.” Charlie goes back to his bed. After thinking about it, he removes his IV tube.

Dressed in his own clothes, Charlie leaves. A white doctor tries to get him to stay, saying he isn’t well and hasn’t been discharged, but Charlie ignores him and walks out of the hospital. He goes to a bank machine and is surprised to see he has $3,700 in his account. He removes cash. As he does, an Aboriginal woman walks up and asks if he is going to buy “some grog.” He says he is.


Unexpected heavy rains that put out Charlie’s fire as he sleeps dampen the victorious mood. Failing to catch anything while out hunting in the rain, Charlie ventures even deeper into the bush, knowing exactly where to go despite lacking any physical navigation tools. His cough foreshadows his deteriorating health, his immune system having been weakened in the foul weather.

The theme of disappearing cultural practices arises again as Charlie arrives at a stone overhang with ancestral paintings on its surface. He eats ash, referring to it aloud as something his ancestors used to do, and he laments how they are all gone now. Although he is starving for food, Charlie goes to great lengths to visit the site, suggesting that he needs spiritual nourishment through connecting to his ancestors just as much as he needs food.

Upon returning to his shelter, Charlie is emaciated and weak. He coughs at a greater frequency, which suggests that his damaged lungs are failing. As his physical health declines, he takes to lying in the mud and staring at the wrinkled photo of himself at the Sydney Opera House. The photo, symbolic of his former pride, does not lift his spirits so much as it reminds him of how far he has fallen. Eventually, he sees the image of his mother, a sign that he is on the threshold between life and death, seeing deceased ancestors.

In an instance of situational irony, it is at this moment that Pete arrives to rescue Charlie from death. With this intervention by Pete, de Heer underscores the theme of the importance of community. While it might have been possible for Charlie to survive in the woods if he had a community to share domestic tasks and hunting with, he made the mistake of believing he could restore his ancestral roots in isolation.

Although Pete rescues him, Charlie’s sense of isolation deepens with his stay at the hospital in Darwin. While there, he is treated with condescension by the white doctor, and he goes to sit at the beside of the man with kidney troubles, who is likely to die apart from his community. The sight of the dying man prompts Charlie to discharge himself from the hospital.

Before returning to his community, Charlie goes to the ATM to take out cash, presumably to pay for his way back to the community. That he has nearly four thousand dollars in the bank gives context to his frustration at not being given more money while in the community; it is clear that his access to money is limited there, and he has no access to his own money. It is another instance of how the restrictive settler culture limits Charlie’s freedom to live as he sees fit.