Oliver Jackson-Cohen The Secret River

The Secret River Review

The Secret River is a 2015 television series from Australia. The series follows William Thornhill (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Thornhill is shipped to New South Wales, after he is sentenced to life. Upon his arrival, he is quickly saved from a harsher existence by his wife, Sal (Sarah Snook). The pair begins living in the area, while William finds work nearby. The former condemned man winds up running into a lucrative business deal with a man, by the name of Thomas Blackwood (Lachy Hulme).

The Secret River Sarah Snook

Despite some reservations from Sal, William agrees the offer and ventures into the world’s most secretive river with Blackwood. Along the river, William encounter Aboriginal natives and is surprised to find that Blackwood has no trouble communicating and getting along with them. Blackwood attempts to take William under his wing and show him the ropes, but Sal wants nothing to do with it. Her only desire is to return home, but Blackwood manages to help Thornhill obtain a pardon and secures the couple’s trust in return.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen The Secret River

Eventually, Thomas explains his desire to sell his boat and give up his business venture. After some initial back and forth between William and Sal, William convinces Sal to purchase the Thomas’ boat and his business. William is give 5 years to make a substantial amount of money, so the pair can return to home. William agrees, but he has other plans for the future. He takes his wife and children and establishes a homestead in the middle of native territory. Aside from Smasher (Tim Minchin), who is a bit of a loose cannon, and his friend, Saggity (Samuel Johnson), William and the family are surrounded by nobody, but natives.

Lachy Hulme The Secret River

William manages to make friends with the majority of his neighbors, including Lord Loveday (Rhys Muldoon), but the natives and their intentions remain unknown. William attempts to get along with them, but they continue to butt heads throughout the series. While Smasher and Saggity are hostile towards the native, Thomas is sympathetic and William remains somewhat neutral. As the series drags on, their relationship with the natives worsens and leads to an ultimate showdown.


William will be forced to make a decision between sticking up for the natives or attempting to better his family. So, how is the mini-series? Well, there is truly a lot to like about The Secret River. The cast is absolutely spectacular. Everyone involved does an excellent job and manages to bring a tinge of realism to the series. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and really helps to immerse the viewer into the openness of New South Wales. Although the series is a bit of a slow burner, it really picks up, during the second episode and delivers in the end.


Some will complain about the violence, but it is truly easy to sympathize with both sides. Both groups had their reasons and both were right in a sense. In the end, the ultimate conclusion was ultimately unavoidable. Whether you’re Australian or not, it is easy to relate to The Secret River. The show lasts just under 3 hours and is undoubtedly well worth a watch. An 8 out of 10 is deserved.

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