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(1994) The Eye, the Sky is a film about loneliness in both the adult and the child. It follows the story of a struggling middle-aged couple living on an outback property with Ort, their twelve-year-old son, Tegwyn, their restless, frustrated teenage daughter, and Gramma. After a serious car accident which leaves husband Sam in a coma, his wife Alice finds it increasingly difficult to hold the family and farm together.

With her strengths pushed to the limit, she reluctantly accepts the assistance of a traveling American preacher named Henry Warburton (Coyote) who mysteriously arrives at her door and offers his 'help'. From this point on, we are offered a depiction of a Christian missionary at work, seeking redemption through his own good deeds.

Ort sees things under a different light, accepting Henry as a father-type figure. He also seeks inspiration and consolation in the sky. Each night he is entranced by what he believes to be a protective eye amongst the stars, watching over his family. Tegwyn harbors suspicion and desire for this strange evangelist, while Alice struggles with her conflicting emotions arising from the changing relationships within her family.

On the one hand, Henry's faith is a method of betrayal, while on the other, it is restitutional force. Between restitution and betrayal stands Ort as an arbitrator, looking to the sky for answers, in the hope of restoring strength to his comatose father.



  • Peter Coyote..............Henry Warburton
  • Lisa Harrow...........................Alice Flack
  • Amanda Douge...............Tegwyn Flack
  • Jamie Croft..............Morton "Ort" Flack
  • Mark Fairall..............................Sam Flack
  • Alethea McGrath..............Gramma Flack


  • Directed by...........................John Ruane
  • Written by Jim Barton and John Ruane based on the novel by Tim Winton
  • Cinematography by............ Ellery Ryan
  • Music by............................. David Bridie and John Phillips
  • Running time: 105 min.
  • Released by: Beyond Films (Australia) in 1994


  • Nominated for nine AFI Awards including Best Film & Best Director
  • Winners: Best Supporting Actress - Amanda Douge
  • Young Actors Award - Jamie Croft
  • Venice Film Festival: Special Jury Prize


Charleston Post & Courier calls "That Eye the Sky" a Magical Drama

"Peter Coyote, who has made a career out of playing complex people (A Man in Love, Jagged Edge), delivers a powerful performance as Henry, infusing the character with a dark intellect and a depth of intensity that brings this shadowy figure to life."  Read the full review.

Seattle Film Festival:
"Lyrical... magical...glorious...a beautiful film about the power of love, the importance of belief and the blurry line between the natural and supernatural."

"The cast is uniformly excellent, starting with young Croft as Ort, the wide-eyed boy who is a familiar enough figure in this kind of story but who is given an edge here by the young actor. Douge is bewitching as the frustrated teenager trying to cope with mixed emotions, and Harrow brings dignity and strength to the character of Alice. As the mysterious stranger, Coyote gives the story its intriguing centerpiece."

Melbourne Film Festival:
"John Ruane's understanding of nuance is the cinematic cornerstone of That Eye, the Sky. He is mindful that not all things need be, or indeed, can be explained."

From the Australian media:
A lyrical and faithful adaptation of Tim Winton's mystical book. The film would appeal to both audiences familiar with the novel and those who aren't. It is an uplifting story with intelligent characters and marvelous poetic cinematography to drive the narrative along. Thematically, the film is challenging without being inaccessible... A rare opportunity to view quality Australian literature meets quality Australian film."

"The first adaptation of Tim Winton's work to be made for the screen translates the evocative poetry of his exquisite writing with great faith and subtlety. Amidst shades of Shane, The Rainmaker and even Close Encounters...comes this fascinating transplanting of the Western mythology into a harsh Australian landscape."

"That Eye, the Sky is an ensemble piece that relies heavily on characterization and revealing Ort's imagination, as well as dealing with the contentious subject of faith and religion."

"Much of director John Ruane's storytelling here is superbly spare. You can almost smell the dust and the bush."

"The film explores some deeply complex aspects of our Christian heritage, and although portrayed as contradictory and mystical, they are tightly woven into a story about trust, healing and faith. All performances strongly develop the emotional force of That Eye, the Sky to make it a rich, if sometimes, peculiar film experience."

"Lisa Harrow's performance conveys the despair of someone for all intents and purposes bereaved, and the emptiness of the grief that follows."

director1.gif (905 bytes)In the director's words:
"I think he (Winton) was pleasantly surprised because he was very wary when he heard there was an American in the field and was also wary because of the fact that we didn't shoot the film in Western Australia... I don't think any film does justice to the book but we do we all try them? A book has so much more in it, but all you can do is try and capture the flavor of the book. It is a totally separate thing but, at the same time, it would be awful if the novelist said to you, 'I hate the film.' I think you have to do a few changes or you just can't translate it but, in many ways, I think we were most loyal to That Eye, the Sky. And I like books because someone has spent a lot of time trying to get the story right... I suppose we all define God in different ways, but if I had to say whether I was religious or non-religious, I'd say I would like to be religious because I'd rather believe there was something rather than nothing."


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  • Video hard to find - released in Australia and Canada

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1996 TDK Australian Audio Book Special Award for an audiobook of outstanding quality

Narrated by Stig Wemyss
Bolinda Audio Books

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The novel was published in 1987


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