Iron Knob is a sleepy little town in South Australia where nothing much happens. But then two boys playing outside one day accidentally shoot a stranger with one of their father’s guns.
They enlist their older sister and an aunt to help clean up the mess and salvage the situation, but as they try to address the situation, the town reveals itself to be odder than thought. The father is still grieving his wife, who has passed away, and everyone else is too preoccupied with their own affairs and schemes to care much.
But thanks to the persistence of the sister, the town is shaken up, especially the grief-struck father, whose action finally jolts the funny little town forward to come together in an equally eccentric way.
Writer-director Dave Wade’s dry, deadpan short comedy is a collective portrait of small-town life, where mores and manners don’t change, no matter what happens.
Its sense of humor comes not from gags, quips or antics, but from a mastery of sustained tone and wry observation. When the boys shoot the stranger — who ends up to be in a lot of trouble himself — it shakes this little town up, rattling loose a long-dormant eccentricity.
The writing takes a keen pleasure in observing the ways this small community deals with the event, and much of the humor is found is how nonchalantly Iron Knob’s denizens greet the small spark of accidental violence in the midst. Its rhythms and pacing are as ambling and measured as a lizard sitting in the sun, and even when someone is shot and their life threatened, nothing will budge the town citizens from their routine and small affairs.
The collective portrait of the town that emerges as more and more Iron Knob denizens find out about the shooting is one almost of atrophy, as if addled from too much time in the sun. As fitting to a town in the middle of nowhere, the film has sun-soaked cinematography and a beautiful sense of naturalism and uses these visual tools to create a strong sense of place that adds to the richness of the story.
“Welcome to Iron Knob” is much like the town that it evokes: distinctly Australian, offbeat, yet with its own peculiar charm. Viewers will enter a world that saunters along to its own internal rhythms, but it pays off in an ending that is satirically heartwarming and yet still strangely sweet. It’s both a paean and a send-up to small towns, and how they can insulate its inhabitants from the rough currents of life — for better or worse.