Review: Rain Shadow

Rachel Ward and Victoria Thaine in Rain Shadow

Rain Shadow is an Australian series from 2007 that is now available on AcornTV. It’s about a couple of female vets in a drought-parched sheep farming district of Australia.

Rachel Ward stars as Dr. Kate McDonald with Victoria Thaine as Dr. Jill Blake. Kate’s looking for an assistant for her veterinary business. She’s had plenty, but they’ve all left. Jill shows up in her little tin can of a car and proves she has more staying power than the rest, plus she’s a very good vet. And her city car soon gets swapped to a 4 wheel drive Jeep.

The distant mountains grab all the rain, leaving nothing but sun for the dryland farms in the rain shadow that gives the series its name.

Rachel Ward in Rain Shadow

Kate throws Jill right into the thick of things on her first day, sending her off on her own to find distant places, care for sheep and cattle, and deal with the locals. Since single women are in short supply in the fictional town of Paringa where the story is set, Jill has to stand on her own with several lecherous men within the first 2 days she’s there. She’s up to the challenge.

As the days go by Jill sees the problems the farmers in the area have. She’s particularly concerned about sick sheep.

It’s a small community with many characters.

There’s the Huppatz family. They just lost their father. The son Tom (Tom O’Sullivan) thinks he’ll finally get to run the farm in more modern ways.

There are Fred (Nathaniel Dean) and Gail Kline (Michaela Cantwell) who are losing everything due to bad management. There are the Balfours – Lachlan (Kim Knuckey) and Sarah (Heather Mitchell). They seem to have everything: the good land, money, healthy sheep. There’s Shane (Nathin Butler) who has sick sheep and no land to put them on.

Most importantly, there was Steve (Edwin Hodgeman). He lived directly across the road from Kate and watched over her. We never actually see him until the end of the last episode. Until then he is the wise man behind a curtain, dispensing tea and advice to Kate and Jill.

Victoria Thaine in Rain Shadow

Kate understands everyone, understands the community. Jill keeps putting her foot in it because she doesn’t. Jill wants to report the sick sheep. Kate and all the farmers want to keep it secret because it will mean the local farmers won’t be able to survive if the district is declared diseased.

An Iraqi agronomist named Achmed Aziz (Panda Likoudis) comes. He immediately realizes there are diseased sheep. He could control what happens with the live sheep trade to the middle east. He is a problem.

They farm Achmed out to Harry (Shane Withington) who had weather records dating back to 1873. Achmed with weather data was in heaven. This series is from 2007, but there was plenty of talk about climate change being the cause of the prolonged drought. The farmers didn’t want to face up to it, but the Aussie’s weren’t in denial the way some in the U.S. have been and still are.

The real story for me was the developing relationship between the two women. The farmers and their animals were interesting story fodder, but it was the two leading women who made the series watchable.

Kate was slow to reveal herself. She was a widow and the story of her husband’s death was painful. Kate was prickly and hard and she pushed Jill to grow up and see things in a different light. Jill was stubborn and determined to stay, unlike all Kate’s other assistants. After enough time, enough arguments between them, they saw the value and good in each other and they wanted to work together.

There were many, many, many landscape shots. Many, many, many shots of hopeful clouds that brought no rain. Many, many, many shots of crows on a fence or cars speeding across an empty terrain with dust trailing behind. Combined with very pastoral piano music and gentle guitars in most scenes there was often a sense of quiet and peace around all the drama. We were sung into and out of every episode by The Audreys.

Rachel Ward is always wonderful to watch and she didn’t disappoint in this series.

Jimmy Thomson and Tony Morphett created Rain Shadow with Shawn Seet and Fiona Banks directing.

What follows isn’t so much a trailer as a clip from episode 1, but it lets you have a look at the two women getting to know each other.

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