Sunday Too Far Away opens with Jack Thompson’s chief shearer, Foley, dozing off while driving his FJ Holden down a dusty outback road in 1956. The car rolls several times before he emerges agitated but none the worse for wear.
Foley discovers there is blood on his face (“bugger me”) then picks up his suitcase and commences a long walk into town.
First stop, the pub, where he orders a drink and the woman behind the bar is informed of his plans; “I’ve come back, but I’m not gonna bust my gut. I’m gonna shear nice and steady, ease up on the grog. Put a little bit away.”
At the shearing station, the rest of the men are introduced, including an unpopular chef with an affection for lemon essence, and Foley’s roommate, an elderly alcoholic called Old Garth (Reg Lye).
It doesn’t take long for the film’s staunchly pro-union pitch to kick in as the shearers rally for better conditions . . .
The men pass a motion prohibiting their boss from entering the shearing shed, laying the groundwork for a final act about taking a stand for workers’ rights.
Most dramatically, the shearers fight the “scabs” sent to replace them. In the great blokey Australian knockabout spirit there’s a lot of shouting and a punch-up.
The Australian New Wave more or less began with this movie, or Australian films being taken seriously did at any rate, as Sunday Too Far Away was submitted to the Cannes Festival and generated great interest in the work emerging from the nation in that decade.
The film’s title comes from a legendary lament reportedly from a shearer’s wife about her husband: “Friday night too tired; Saturday night too drunk; Sunday, too far away.”