The award winning Australian film “The Sapphires” (2012) directed by Wayne Blair; composed of a blend of well-coordinated narrative elements and cinematic devices, convey the growth in one of the lead characters-Gail. She journeys through Vietnam with her soul sisters and the ever presence of Dave. Through a range of carefully staged experiences, Gail is seen on the path of self-discovery and finding her place in life.
The dynamics of Gail’s physical presentation and representation are transfigured through a journey of a life time. Upon entering the warzone of Vietnam, Blair ensures Gail is established as a “commanding presence”. It is easily identified she has a dominating and intimidating aura surrounding herself. She is directed with a tough stance with an edgy and defensive manner. Gail is often depicted in a mid-shot; ensuring the audience are able to convey the character’s facial expressions and upper body language. From one particular scene prior to Vietnam – Gail is staged with crossed arms with her legs slightly spaced apart, when she is strongly requested by Dave to let Julie replace herself as lead-singer during their first rehearsal. Her stance is closing herself off from everybody else and trying to protect herself, producing a subtle sign of discomfort to enforce the image of herself to seem more commanding as an authoritative figure. However juxtaposing this image, she begins smiles more often, not a small snarky smirk, but a real smiles with her eyes light up, her body signals have also become more open. When Dave and herself we’re dancing, they we’re holding each other, Gail was letting Dave lead and guide her body movements to the soft immersing music. Throughout the journey the director’s wardrobe choice has also changed for Gail. This is significant; as the clothing fits better, accumulating her appearance, the softer shades help Gail to appear more feminine and gentle. Compared to previously when she wore darker and heavier shades- baggy and lose clothing hiding her figure, while she was a “mouth on legs”. This change signifies the director signalling a new leaf for Gail. Her physical nature becomes noticeably gentler and softer, representative of the growth in Gail, learning to let go.
Gail the eldest of the quartet making her way through Vietnam- embodies the role of “mama bear with her cubs”. As Blair has established Gail as a controlling woman, her character is juxtaposed against a country torn apart by war; throwing her into unfamiliar and threating territory. Blair brings in the role of mama bear, as Gail bears the self-entitled responsibility for her sisters and cousin. She confesses to Dave she cannot forgive herself if any harm came across to her family under her watch. This is seen when the government officials abducted Kay from the Indigenous community and when Gail tries to prevent Julie from coming to Vietnam and being close to the war, as she is the youngest. During their debut performance the camera does not focus on Gail, but merely skimming over her. She is not the strongest voice but the girls come to Gail in a group hug in the end, because they know she holds them together. Gail’s arms are placed over the shoulders of Julie, Cynthia and Kay, because they are under her wing and she will do anything to put them first to achieve their dreams. Blair illuminates Gail’s face with a partial lighting, empathizing the pride and happiness upon her face. A mother sacrifices certain things in her life out of love, but every choice and decision is made for the benefit of her children. Gail steps back from the role of lead singer, it was difficult for her to swallow her pride but the worth of the compromise was for the good of her sisters. Through these scenes, Blair depicts the bond between Gail and The Sapphires influencing the change in identity she undergoes as the mama bear.
Through the journey Gail discovers a newfound relationship with Dave, a special man who is able to help her discover the parts she never knew about herself. While Gail was with the company of Dave by the side of a riverbed, Blair displays a natural scenery showing them both in their natural behaviour. The camera frames are often in mid-shots, setting both characters on an equal level seeing eye to eye. Dave also delivers his “mama bear” speech in the natural lighting highlighting his genuineness and true feelings; brings to her attention that she is a “defensive and argumentative old witch”, because she is the mama bear who protects her family from harm’s way. This comes as a new realization to Gail as she never really considered why she was the way she was , a close up camera shot is used to clearly outline Gail’s reaction of surprise and the small smile of appreciation that someone has noticed something she never knew herself. The relationship she has with Dave has changed drastically, as Gail has learned to give the mutual respect that he deserves softening the tension which once existed between them. Through the course of journeying through Vietnam Gail is comforted by Dave, who wants to take care of her and protect her. With Dave by her side, Gail learns to let others watch out for her, that even the strongest people need someone to lean on.
Through one incredible journey through a warzone, with a sole purpose to restore hope to those who are struggling to get it back. Gail gains a deeper understanding the aspects of her personality that she never knew existed, until they were brought out by the ones closest to her heart. She is a woman who has become a more confident and brave, discovering her place with a new meaning and perception.