In this concluding episode of a four-part series, the drive of journalists Bartlett, Murdoch and Bean to report on the truth of the war comes to its climax, resulting in a bittersweet victory — the Gallipoli evacuation. Bartlett and Murdoch successfully convey the reality of Lord Hamilton’s disastrous campaign to the Australian and British prime ministers. Bean has stayed with the remaining soldiers and leaves with them, having documented their lives by collecting letters, diaries and mementos, ultimately forming part of Bean’s legacy — the Australian War Memorial.
Cate Shortland’s script deftly interweaves the story arcs of the various characters, bringing them to a conclusion that is seamless and satisfying. Shuler’s final sequence is tragic and beautiful. Murdoch and Bartlett’s confrontation of the British military is delicately handled, conveying victory but not without personal toll. With Bean typhoid-ridden and emaciated, Shortland takes us through the exhilarating yet heartbreaking Anzac evacuation. And although this event is highly documented, the script is infused with unpredictability, tension and emotion, focusing on friendships (particularly Bean and his loyal assistant, Bazley) forged by tragedy, loyalty and an unwavering survival instinct. A skilfully emotional, page-turning read.
The reality of war, culminating in the legacy of the painful maturing of a nation is powerful subject matter for any writer. However, Shortland elevates the material in a manner that is succinct and poetic, beautiful and compelling. Action is described with filmic elegance and fine, detailed attention. Dialogue is firmly rooted in character, deeply moving but without sentimentality as the themes of love, honour, friendship, sacrifice are played out… This is a sublime screenplay, masterful storytelling.