Directed by Matthew Saville from a script written by Winton and Ellen Fontana, "Cloudstreet" tracks through two decades of Australian history by way of a pair of families sharing a house in a suburb of Perth, which they're split down the middle out of economic necessity. The Lambs, consisting of Lester (Geoff Morrell) and Oriel (Kerry Fox, always a pleasure to see in a role) and their six children, place their faith in God, while the Pickles -- Sam (Stephen Curry), Dolly (Essie Davis) and their daughter Rose (Emma Booth) -- trust to the "shifty shadow" of fate. The house they share, a rambling, striking bit of set design, was inherited by the Pickles from Sam's brother, and was once a place where Aboriginal children were sent and forcefully assimilated.
It's out on the water that the two families first experience the tragedies that bring them together, with a Lamb son almost drowning after being caught in a fishing net, and Sam Pickle loses four fingers in a boating accident. And while stylistically, the show has the glow of an imperfect memory, water more than anything is shot like a wondrous hallucination, like a place to which at least one character longs to return.