Cloudstreet, Tim Winton's award-winning novel and the six episode miniseries developed from it, is the story of two working class Australian families forced by circumstances to live together in a large dilapidated house in the Perth of the middle of the 20th century. The series covers approximately 20 years. The two families couldn't be more opposite. The Pickles are grasshoppers; the Lambs are ants. The Lambs are industrious and practical; the Pickles carefree, careless wastrels. The Lambs believe in family, the Pickles are at each other's throats. The Lambs get by and even prosper, the Pickles decay.
Yet despite their differences, and unlikely as it might be, they manage over the years not only to live together but to find compassion and even respect for each other. It is an uplifting story of human endurance in the face of adversity. The six episode, 2011 miniseries, was shot on location in Western Australia. It is now available, along with a bonus disc of back stage features, in a three DVD set from Acorn Media.
As a viewer unfamiliar with the novel, I must admit that I found a good bit of the plot adapted by Winton himself, along with Ellen Fontana, confusing, at least through the first few episodes. Character motivations are not always clear. Moreover, there is a magical strain running through the narrative and it takes some time to recognize what is going on with things like talking pigs, a bird that evacuates coins, and a house that seems to cry and moan. I'm not sure the magical elements really come into focus until almost the end of the series, if then. Indeed there are elements like a mysterious Aborigine who appears over and over again and seems to have some issues with the house at Cloud Street that I still don't understand. Presumably those who have read the novel have a better handle on what it is all about.