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BLUEBACK: 3 STARS. “a well-intentioned but heavy-handed film.”

We’ve all seen boy and his dog movies about the deep relationship between humans and animals like “White Fang” and the simply named “Dog,” with Channing Tatum and a Belgian Malinois.

“Blueback,” a new Australian family picture starting Mia Wasikowska and now playing in theatres, mines similar territory, but this time it’s the story of a girl, her blue groper and the love of the ocean.

Wasikowska Is marine biologist Abby who grew up exploring the ocean around the coast of her Western Australian childhood home. “We were born in the water,” says her mother Dora (Elizabeth Alexander).

When Dora suffers a debilitating stroke that leaves her unable to speak, Abby returns home. Hoping a return to the sea will aid in Dora’s recovery, they travel to the coast.

From here, the story toggles between Abby’s childhood and the discovery of a rare blue groper—the Blueback of the title—that inspired the eco-activism that shaped her life, and the present day.

“Blueback” is a well-intentioned but heavy-handed film that mixes-and-matches mother and daughter dynamics with messages about the fragility of marine environments and the importance of conservationism. The movie’s main thrusts are intertwined and, unfortunately, over explained. Repetition and excessive exposition blunt the movie’s mission somewhat, despite fine performances from Wasikowska and Radha Mitchell, who plays Dora in the flashbacks.

The film’s storytelling deficiencies, however, are alleviated somewhat by beautiful underwater photography and the urgency of the conservation messaging.

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