Shady Lady


Too many Wiki-worthy info dumps and not enough character-enriching detail stops Shady Lady, a docudrama about a team of World War II Australian bombardiers, from cohering into a compelling fiction-doc hybrid. Through dry voiceover narration and clunky dialogue, director Tristan Loraine and co-writer Vivienne Young never stop explaining what was so dangerous about the Royal Australian Air Force’s ambitious and unprecedented bombing run on a Japanese oil refinery. Young airmen played by robotic amateur actors are consequently always telling one another what’s happening as it happens. Shady Lady‘s dramatized reenactments, which comprise most of the film’s paradoxically interminable 87-minute runtime, are periodically interrupted by undistinguished stock footage and photomontages of the real Shady Lady and the 380th Bomb Group. But unless you’re already a history buff, it’s impossible to know just how typical the behavior of Shady Lady’s crew was as they tried to escape the Japanese. Loraine and Young’s blocky nonfiction interludes are too reliant on largely unqualified descriptions of events. It’s impossible to know, just by using the film’s re-creation of events, how hard it was for First Lieutenant Douglas Craig to out-maneuver enemy Japanese planes nor why his famously improvised landing of the Shady Lady on a beach was as risky as it was. Likewise, clammy banter during the film’s fictionalized Unsolved Mysteries–level dramatization of events terminally stalls the film’s most tense scenes. The biggest problem with Shady Lady isn’t how much talking Loraine and Young’s heroes do, but rather how little of note they have to say. Simon Abrams