Simple and understated, Romulus, My Father begins with Romulus Gaita (Eric Bana) and his son, Raimond (Kodi Smit-McPhee). A light bulb sways in the black of night, and the father attempts to teach his son about life. He is holding a handful of still and lifeless wasps. As the warmth of the light passes over them, they stir, and he brings the insects back to life in front of the amazed eyes of Raimond. The lesson is simple: with warmth, life will thrive. It is an ideal that the elder Gaita models his life upon, and while it continues to fail him in his own life, he is fueled by Raimond taking the lesson to heart.
Coming from Raimond Gaita's noted memoir, Romulus, My Father follows the writer's young life in 1960's Australia. His family has emigrated from Eastern Europe, and now find their life divided. Father and son live alone in the country, receiving only sporadic visits from unreliable wife and mother Christina (Franka Potente). Romulus allows this because he loves Christina, and believes that she needs him. Raimond is an ideal kid, one who remains optimistic and loving in the shadow of his mother's absence. It is, however, an optimism that is continually challenged as his father is beaten by the hardships that life hurls at him time and time again.