March 24, 1980 12:00 PM

It’s easy to see why this adaptation of a 1901 novel by Miles Franklin swept six of the 1979 Australian Academy Awards. Actress Judy Davis didn’t win, but she is superb as a free-spirited teenager who longs to escape her family’s poverty and become a writer. Director Gillian Armstrong and screenwriter Eleanor Witcombe illustrate effectively the barriers the girl faces. She even wonders at times if she wouldn’t be better off settling for bourgeois domesticity. The continent is distant, the backdrop strange but, as American women will deduce, the problems are very familiar. (G)

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