This is one very 'different' film. The pre-publicity prepares one for a tough hour-and-a-bit. It starts slow, and one wonders whether the story can be told in the short time left. We have a family, short of a dad, living on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. It's sugarcane country, backed by Mount Warning, the conspicuous mountain named by James Cook in 1770. The family is poor economically, but strong in spirit. We are introduced to the three girls, eldest 12, early in a line-up. This line-up is repeated from time to time and at the finish of the film. The girls are obedient, which makes them, perhaps, less than normal. But mother preserves the family's functionality with discipline against great odds. The odds seem greatest when the family is stuck with the grandfather, suffering with Alzheimers. It is obvious that Lou, the eldest girl, is to be the leader in the drama, and Doyle, the declining elder, is her foil. Does this work? Well, there's an old stage rule: never appear with children or dogs. The children win hands down with the mother appearing to be helpless. Doyle finishes up happy, and Lou, resilient in her youth, recovers from her disappointment. The cinematography is lovely, with rock-steady camera work, but not relying too heavily on the magnificent landscape of the Tweed Valley. Yes, a filmmaker can tell a story in under an hour-and-a-half!
Living in rural New South Wales, working-class single mother Rhia (Emily Barclay) is struggling to evade debt collectors and raise three young daughters. The eldest, and hardened beyond her years, Lou (Lily Bell Tindley) blames Rhia for the departure of her father, who walked out ten months ago and hasn't been seen since. Mother-daughter relations hit bottom when Rhia takes in Doyle (Sir John Hurt), her father in-law, who is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Doyle turns Lou's initial hostility around with exciting tales of his South Seas adventures. But coursing deepest in his mind are fractured memories of Annie, his late wife. Before long, Doyle "sees" Annie in Lou and imagines he is courting her all over again.—Palm Springs Internation Film Festival
March 18, 2023 at 02:22 AM
Sweet but not sugary
Thought-provoking Aussie charmer
This is an Australian film of great depth. The simplicity can be deceptive but like all great writing the trick is to say enough without saying too much. The combination of the writing and the acting synergistically magnifies the impact of what could seem to those on a steady diet of blockbusters a slow film. On an obviously tight budget sometimes so much can be delivered. By relying on good acting,writing, direction an impact can be had which exceeds that of the 100 million dollar epic. In digging deeper, director Belinda Chayko calls us as an audience to also give more. This is a giving which is rewarded. after watching the film last night, the questions were still rattling away the next day as I write this. John Hurt really is fabulous as Doyle, while Lilly Bell-Tindlay is in danger of stealing the show. If you like beautiful images, you are in for a treat as the Tweed Valley is shown to it's best advantage. While I know that this will not be the sort of movie for everyone, I do know that it left my life just a bit richer.
Touching Drama From Down Under
Getting the portrayal of an Alzheimer's disease sufferer on screen is very difficult, as the disease can manifest itself in so many ways and the writer could be accused of milking it for comedic value if they're not careful. Some of John Hurt's antics in Lou sometimes verge on the edge of this territory, but thanks to his skill as an actor we are able to be convinced his unseemly outbursts are part of his condition, so the issue of insensitivity never arises. His ultimate triumph is getting ME to like him, as when he was foisted on this single mother of three children at the start just before Christmas (he's her estranged husband's father) and given the eldest daughter Lou's bedroom, my reaction was more or less the same as Lou's... NOT FAIR and GET RID OF HIM.
But, through a combination of his idiosyncratic behaviour and his seafaring stories, he is able to win her (and me) over, although the relationship becomes slightly worrying when he mistakes this 11 year old for his long-gone WIFE, and proposes to her. Fortunately, Lou takes it all in good grace and even wears the ring he gives her, but (understandably) her mum is slightly worries at this turn of events and forces her child to 'break it off'. This sparks a violent outburst from the afflicted old man, and an even deeper wedge being driven between mother and daughter. Lou decides to do a runner with her grandpa, but looking after a dementia sufferer on the road is harder than you think...
Alternating between humour and pathos, it features great performances from everyone, especially the very prettily named Lily Bell Tindley as the toughest pre-teen you'll ever likely to meet (Though in this kind of family, that trait is probably a necessity). As mentioned, John Hurt is completely disarming as the completely random but good-hearted pensioner, and his friendship with Lily's character forms the crux of the story. Reality has to set in eventually though, and when it is eventually time to say goodbye, we feel the people in the film have learned something, and we at home have too. Edutainment indeed... 7/10