How Is ‘Faraway Downs’ Different From Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Australia’?

Faraway Downs is a refurbished version of the original film, Australia, which was released in 2008. Hulu released this film in six episodes, which briefly touches upon the history of the land down under. The movie also touched upon the racism faced by the blacks and Aboriginals of Australia at the hands of the colonizers. The streaming giant took this movie and delivered a series that had scenes that were not initially included in the film. The original film itself was two hours and forty-five minutes long. However, in the series, many new scenes were added to push the narrative forward, and there were a lot of changes in the plotline as well.


Spoilers Ahead

Since Australia is a movie, unlike Faraway Downs, the writer and the director had to depend on a time-bound screenplay. There is an elaborate scene in the show involving Lady Sarah’s landing in Australia, which includes her conversation with the seamen and learning about her husband’s reputation. This was the first time she understood the nature of men in Australia. This scene was an extended one that was cut short in the film. In the television show, it was added only to help the audience and Sarah prepare for what might await them once they move away from the coast and head toward the mainland, where the ranch is located. There were several scenes involving their commute to the Faraway Downs ranch added to bring to the fore the amount of discomfort Sarah felt right at the beginning of her trip and contrast it with how she felt about the people of the country by the end of the show. The journey had to begin with a negative experience for the lead to finally find a foothold.


There were portions of Nullah speaking about his grandfather, “King George,” in the prologue, which was cut short in the show. The extended portion of Nullah’s narrative and his experience as a young kid would have shed light on the significance of the Aboriginal culture and how the white community settling in the country was instrumental in erasing it. The showmakers did not highlight it in the series, but it was elaborated on in the film. These changes were included in the television show only to push the narrative further and increase the runtime of the show. Several scenes from the film were set during the daytime, but in the television show, the same scene would be set at night. There was no conclusive reason behind such sudden changes.

Sarah’s breaking down over her husband’s death was included in the show. The servants hired by Lord Maitland were terrified of his wife, who had arrived in Australia. This was not in the film for obvious reasons. The workers at the ranch could slowly see that Lady Sarah may not be the tyrant they expected her to be. The makers added the scene about Lady Sarah wanting to leave Faraway Downs as early as possible in the show. She wanted to get out of Australia in no time and get on with life in the UK. Drover stopped her by informing her of the profit she could make by selling her cattle. Sarah was intrigued by the number presented by Drover. Neil Fletcher was not interested in having Lady Sarah Ashley around for another day because he had ulterior motives regarding the ranch, as shown in the film but this scenario was removed from the movie. Neil’s spending the night with Nullah’s mother at the ranch is proof of the young kid’s parentage. Neil was ashamed to admit that he was the father of a half-caste. He would be shunned by society, just like Drover was treated for marrying a black woman.


As the show progressed, and since it was established that Neil was Carney’s mole working for Maitland, Sarah and Drover decided to train the remaining horses so that they could walk the cattle up to Darwin. The film only mentioned Lady Sarah as one of the escorts who wanted to help. The new scenes so far have not diverted from the original screenplay but were only included to support the subplot.

As the show reached the midway point, the makers decided to include one major scene that was excluded from the film. The death of Mr. Carney, aka King Carney. The man was the richest cattle ranch owner, and he intended to have a monopoly over cattle sales. This was one of the reasons he was never on good terms with Lord Maitland Ashley. In the film, Mr. Carney’s death was only announced as a newspaper announcement, followed by Neil being made the top boss at Carney’s company. However, in the show, Neil is shown killing his would-be father-in-law by pushing him into a crocodile-infested water body. He made sure his fiancée’s father would never come out alive, paving the way for his ambition to take over his father-in-law’s business and defeat Sarah and Drover. This was the point where Neil’s personality switched, and he became an evil person who would get rid of anyone to fulfill their selfish goals. He married a woman he barely loved while refusing to acknowledge Nullah and his mother in public.


The show concluded, and there were bigger changes made in the finale. The bombing of Darwin had begun, and Nullah was stuck on Mission Island. Mission Island was the first place destroyed by the Japanese bombings, and a distressed and displaced Sarah was informed by Captain Dutton about the possibility of all the kids having died in the onslaught. This scene was not mentioned in the movie to keep the emotions concise. The sentiments were explored in the finale episode of the series to describe how Sarah would have felt knowing Nullah would never come back alive. 

Drover was under the impression that Sarah had died and that saving Nullah would be a way to make her soul happy. The rescue was elaborated in the finale episode because the streaming giant as well as the makers aimed to prolong the narrative and give as much as they could to the audience when it comes to context. The rescue mission was a success. This was followed by a tear-jerking reunion between Sarah, Nullah, and Drover. The biggest twist in the tale would be the ending of the show. The makers took a different turn when it came to the climax of the show. In the movie Australia, Drover saves Nullah from being shot and killed by Neil. Neil was killed right at that moment by Nullah’s grandfather, King George, who seems like an omnipresent entity that always stays with everybody Nullah loves. Drover, Sarah, and Nullah, by the end of the film, live at Faraway Downs. Young Nullah was sent away with his grandfather for the ritualistic walkabout, with them not knowing when the boy would return.


In the show, Drover dove in to save Nullah from getting shot at by Neil. Drover got shot instead, and Neil was killed in the same manner as stated above. The show ended with Drover’s death to showcase doomed love, and there is no end to the suffering faced by Sarah and Nullah. Drover, moments before breathing his last, revealed his real name. He was John Clancy who confessed his love for Sarah. John died knowing he was loved dearly by Sarah and Nullah. This change was probably made to give this show an edge. Drover’s death does come across as a shock for those who have seen the film Australia. Those who have watched the show for the first time would have a good cry over Drover’s passing. These are scenes and narratives that were changed in the show from the source so that it does not look very similar. Faraway Downs is far from a perfect show, but these changes only provide a few seconds of thrills and shock values. It does not make sense in the bigger scheme of things in regard to the show and the original film.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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