Robyn Davidson has made many personal TV appearances including BBC’s Jeremy Paxman’s Newsnight, Talking Heads with Peter Thompson, and Q&A with Tony Jones.
In 1984 Robyn wrote a successful television feature for the ABC – Mail-Order Bride.
The following review is by Marie McNamara in The Age’s Green Guide on 30th August 1984
For once Wendy Hughes was spot on when, in introducing Mail-Order Bride, she said it was “gripping”. The cautious viewer has learned to take these superlatives with a grain of the proverbial, especially after she referred to Crime Of The Century as “full of insoluble tensions”.
But Mail-Order Bride is gripping. It’s poignant, hilarious local drama at its best. But be warned – it will shame any self-respecting Australian male chauvinist. Mail-Order Bride is a wild indictment of racist Australia.
But don’t be put off by the threat of didacticism. The beauty of this film, last and by far the best of a motley assortment, is that it entertains as it educates savagely. The viewer’s sympathies thus are offered willingly to the pretty Filipino girl who marries an Australian and struggles for acceptance in a small country town.
Mail-Order Bride begins innocuously, and this innocence, characterised in the two lead actors, Ray Meagher and Charito Ortez, is present throughout what develops into a harrowing, artfully understated tragedy. We meet Kevin Saunders (Ray Meagher) at Sydney airport, where he self-consciously awaits his mail-order Filipino bride, Ampy Cruz.
Ray Meagher is a delight as the laconic, well-meaning but thick Ocker, and Charito Ortez, in her first major screen role, is convincing as the tiny, anxious vulnerable Asian.
Initially, there is a wealth of ordinary situations which, when seen through the startled eyes of Ampy, become hilarious. For instance, there is a cringe-filled moment when Kevin proudly shows Ampy their home, a modest caravan (don’t forget the annexe). And then there’s a dreadful wedding reception held in the local hall, with an excuse for a band and a lot of heavy drinking.
Despite these ruthless shocks, Ampy seems happy enough with her big lug of a husband, and he with her, until hinted racism and sexism become obvious. The drama’s tone changes abruptly and the disasters which follow are all the more devastating because they occur in an offhand, understated way, much like the humor to which we were treated originally.
Mail-Order Bride is a credit to writer Robyn Davidson, director Stephen Wallace and producer Michael Carson.