Film Review: Breathtaking Australian cinema

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I received this screener on behalf of Barr Lipp Productions.

There aren’t too many films like this one. The plot is fairly straight-forward: a young man with a history of gang violence, drug use and all that other nasty stuff is trying to sort his life out for his estranged girlfriend and their young daughter. His day starts out as he seemingly locks a young woman in a hotel room before snatching up his girls and ending up in a whole lot of trouble with some former running buddies.

The major thing that sets this apart from a lot of other crime/drug films is the fact that this was shot in one unbroken take. From start to finish, there is not a single cut made at any point, which makes the whole thing feel raw and unfiltered in its presentation of the story. We see our characters making their way through this harsh reality and we don’t feel like a spectator. We feel like we are there. Watching the whole thing in real-time and with no breaks/cuts gives the film a sense of urgency as well that multiple MTV-style cuts just couldn’t accomplish with the same result. I can’t imagine the preparation that went into this film when it comes to staging the actors, memorizing lines, and the overall technical aspects that went into it. In fact there is a stunt late in the film that impresses moreso because it is possible that they had to do it multiple times because of the whole one-take thing.

The actors should all be commended for being able to hit all their marks and deliver their lines as well as they do throughout. Tristan Barr takes on the lead role (Danny) as well as acting as a co-writer/director, which is just insane to imagine on a project at this level. He does quite well in the lead role, hitting the necessary intensity level while also maintaining a certain amount of warmth when he is faced with his young daughter, who also does very well for a child actor. The filmmakers keep her lines to a minimum, which actually works on two levels: it creates less of a load for young Annabelle Williamson to worry about and it also allows her to act with her emotions and facial expressions instead. The other performer that we see the most of is Chelsea Zeller, who was another one of the co-writers. Zeller plays Barr’s bewildered girlfriend, Sally, and is very impressive at playing someone who has been through a lot. You can sense that Sally has seen Danny at his worst many times and has probably heard him saying he would clean up, leave the gangs, etc. many, many times. So why should she buy it this time?

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The cinematography (aside from it being one-take, which I think I’ve stressed enough) is very good. The scenery of Australia is breathtaking already in its own right and that is taken advantage of throughout the entire film. There are driving scenes that go on for a long time, especially at the beginning of the film, but they are not boring because we are watching the scenery combined with the emotions of the actors. In fact, the opening scene of Danny driving around with a wounded and drugged up woman in the backseat is very impressive acting-wise for the young woman, especially, because she manages to tell the story of the whole scene almost just by using her facial expressions alone. Not an easy thing to do. Another interesting thing is the use of real stock footage and interviews regarding crystal meth in Australia and its effects on various forms of life. It is a great way to launch the viewer into the world of the film and establishes the mood perfectly.

The film is not available yet but I will keep you all informed when it is released. Highly recommended.

*****

 

Rating System:

* (Brutal; the worst rating)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)