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Entries in drama (8)



Stars: Carolina Sanín, Leticia Gómez, Antonio Martínez, Vladimir Durán and Alejandra Sarria.
Writers: Franco Lolli, Marie Amachoukeli and Virginie Legeay.
Director: Franco Lolli.

OPENING NIGHT: 58th Semaine de la Critique, Festival de Cannes 2019.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

The emotional extremes we bear witness to in the face of impending mortality and the generational flow of familial love provide the existential framework for director Franco Lolli’s elegant, often profound and deeply resonant sophomore feature, Litigante (The Defendant). Having travelled to Cannes in 2014 with his debut Gente de bien, the Colombian director’s return to the Semaine de la Critique is an understated triumph.

Fronted by two superb actresses crafting vivid portrayals of old and new matriarchy, Lolli constructs a mother/daughter dynamic not dissimilar to that utilised by James L. Brooks for his Oscar-winner Terms of Endearment (1983). Unlike that relatively upbeat slice of well-to-do white American melodrama, however, Litigante presents a middle-class Colombian family in a downward spiral of tension, grief, black humour and barely restrained conflict. This is a home that runs deep with resentment and unfulfilled expectations, despite maintaining a façade of tolerant warmth and stable intellectualism.

With co-scripters Marie Amachoukeli and Virginie Legeay, Lolli provides layers of rich humanity for his key protagonist, 40-ish lawyer and single mother Silvia (Carolina Sanín); introduced as a passive observer, she sits by her mother Leticia (Leticia Gómez) as the elderly woman reacts with defiance to the news that the cancer that has been in remission for a year has returned. Refusing an extended hospital stay and invasive treatment, Leticia decides to see out her final days in the family home, not entirely aware of the burden it will place on her family (which has been patriarch-free for many years).

As Bogota’s Deputy Legal Secretary of Public Works, Silvia is implicated in corruption charges brought against her boss – another man absent for most of the film (as are several influential males in this female-centric story). Silvia must fend for herself in a heated radio interview conducted by journalist Abel (Vladimir Durán). An unlikely romance develops, but theirs is a love destined for difficulty as the obstinate and ailing Leticia weighs in on his suitability as Silvia’s prospective partner.

Carolina Sanín is wholly wonderful as Silvia, every ounce of pain she withholds and frustration she endures etched on the lines that seem to take shape on her face over the course of the narrative. As the title suggests, she is under constant scrutiny, forced to defend herself from a judicial system out to prosecute her office or a mother questioning her entirely reasonable life choices. The personification of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Sanín is a true contemporary female heroine; stoic and determined to face her hardships, focused on others above herself and unwavering in her commitment to family, regardless of how challenging and tenuous that link may sometimes appear to be.   

All of life’s distractions, and the narrative’s subplots, fade away as Leticia’s health deteriorates; Silvia, her young son Antonio (Antonio Martínez, a natural screen performer) and 20-something sister ‘Majo’ (Alejandra Sarria) experience firsthand the daily pain and dwindling life energy of their once vibrant mother. So to does the audience, in scenes of aching tenderness and sharply focused emotionality; the astonishingly transformative performance by Leticia Gómez is even more remarkable given that the actress is the real-life mother of the director as well as the inspiration for the story, having been cared for by her son while recovering from a cancer bout.

The final frames of Franco Lolli’s Litigante speak to the cyclical nature of the parental bond, acknowledging that Silvia knows she is next in line for a similar decline and that Antonio, blissfully unaware as he presently is, will step into the carer’s role. It is a beautiful, universal, heartbreaking observation from a filmmaker fully invested in his story and characters.



Stars: Jessica Rothe, Bates Wilder, Forrest Weber and Kathy Askew.
Writer/Director: Andrew Kightlinger

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

A film so steeped in such deeply human conditions as grief, addiction and loneliness ought not also be such a sweetly engaging joy, but that is one of the many charms of Andrew Kightlinger’s rural heart-tugger, Tater Tot & Patton. Pairing two damaged humans on an isolated ranch sets in motion a narrative that affords stars Jessica Rothe and Bates Wilder some deep, dark but also delightful moments together.

Further affirmation that she is the most interesting ‘Young Hollywood’-type working today, Happy Death Day starlet Jessica Rothe plays brattish LA twenty-something Andie, who has chosen a sabbatical on her Aunt Tilly’s dustbowl farm over another stint in rehab. Upon arrival, Tilly is absent and Andie finds herself in the charge of her uncle, hulking boozehound Erwin (Bates Wilder); he has little time for the problems of a spoiled princess he hasn’t known since she was a 4 year-old that the family called ‘Tater Tot’.

Two disparate, desperate substance abuse survivors isolated with their inner demons proceeds for much of Act 1 as truth dictates; Tater Tot, forced to learn the ways of country life, and Erwin, ill-prepared for the intrusion a wilful millennial can represent, turn on each other with increasing venom. As their scarred psyches are revealed and the familial bond is repaired, the mismatched characters find themselves on a shared journey of recovery and understanding.

Rothe and Wilder, heartbreaking in what deserves to be a breakthrough lead role, bring a rich dynamic to the close-quarters life that Tater and Erwin are forced into. The intimacy they achieve is a credit to the actors, as well as testament to the inherent honesty of Kightlinger’s scripting (no aspect more so than the grip of alcoholism and the dangers of self-medicating). The director occasionally falls back on some ethereal indie visuals and wispy music to convey the grip of sad memories, but there is so much emotion imbued in the character’s plight such indulgences are not only forgivable, but mostly effective.

The lensing of Peter ‘Per’ Wigand captures the vast brown-tinged grasslands of the South Dakota setting with an artistry that re-asserts the isolation, both physical and psychological, of the protagonists. Top-tier craftsmanship by production designer Chris Canfield and art director Scott Schulte add further authenticity to the ranch interiors, which reflect the waning life force consuming Erwin. Buffs will respond warmly to Erwin’s recollection of his family’s ties to one of the great films made in the region, Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winner Dances with Wolves (1990).



Stars: Tegan Crowley, Vateresio Tuikaba, Chloe Martin, Ryan A. Murphy, Fabiana Weiner, Christapor Yaacoubian, Eva Seymour, Felise Morales, Alexandra Hines and Lucy Moir.
Writers/directors: Caitlin Farrugia and Michael Jones.

WORLD PREMIERE: Gold Coast Film Festival, April 5, 2019 at Home of the Arts (HOTA), Gold Coast, Queensland.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Two wide-eyed new parents decide to double-down on the stress of raising one newborn by creating another, in the form of a no-budget indie film, in Maybe Tomorrow. A bittersweet tug-of-war two-hander showcasing shifting gender roles, the drive to be creative and the hidden responsibilities of adulthood, the latest from the writing/directing team of Caitlin Farrugia and Michael Jones plays free-spirited and loose for much of the first act before the realities of the ‘work-and-family-balance’ myth kick in.

Farrugia, Jones and their acting troupe have eked out a niche following with their slice-of-young-inner-city-life films Lazybones (2017) and So Long (2017) and Maybe Tomorrow represents a natural progression for the auteurs, both narratively and artistically. They provide warm insight into the pressure placed upon grounded but idealistic Erin (Tegan Crowley) and her partner, the responsibility-averse, man-child Pat (Vateresio Tuikaba) as they determinedly prepare to shoot what emerges as an uncomfortably raw version of their pre-parenthood life together.

Crowley is an engaging presence as Erin, a young woman for whom childbirth has led to an acceptance of personal duty; she works a part-time café job, prepares shooting schedules and affords Pat a stay-at-home lifestyle in which he fully indulges. When her psychological edges start to fray, it feels particularly real. As Pat, Tuikaba is very likable in that cool, late-20s one-time party-guy way, so the struggles he begins to face in the early stages of manhood will strike a nerve with those at a similar existential crossroads.

Michael Jones has stated that the title refers to the late night response that spouses often give each other when one feels ready for love and the other doesn’t. That explanation speaks to the inevitable lessening of physical intimacy that new parents like Erin and Pat experience, although it is a phenomenon not really explored in the film. Their degree of intimacy has extended beyond the sexual into that relationship realm where you discuss heavy periods and bad farts with graceless familiarity.

However, the term ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ also represents a generational malaise synonymous with millennial culture; an October 2018 study of US citizens aged 18-34 found they are prone to procrastination above any other demographic, a theme explored with resonance and insight by the leads (in scenes of largely improvised dialogue). Erin is striving to stay above and move beyond the more mundane aspects of her world, while Pat is only just realizing that life may seem idyllic but is in fact moving past him.

While Farrugia and Jones empathise with their protagonists, they are not above some skewering of millennial pretension; Pat’s theory of keeping apple quarters in mason jars so he can yell moods into them is hilarious. With the film-within-a-film stuttering through production, Pat uses some downtime to blend homemade kombucha, to which boom operator Eva (Eva Seymour) enquires, “What do you do on this set?” Not every scene nails its intent; that hoary old comedy bit, the ‘awkward family Christmas meal’, feels like padding, while a rehearsal montage of bad actors trying for parts in Pat and Erin’s film is overplayed.

Where Maybe Tomorrow works, and works beautifully, is in its study of the strain placed on love and commitment that dreams and desires can bring. The final frames inspire a longing for the young couple’s happiness, but play out ambiguously; we hope for their mutual fulfillment, but are left wondering whether they can make that happen for each other.



Stars: Alan Dukes, Airlie Dodds, Susan Prior, Rose Riley, Rhys Muldoon, Pippa Grandison, Thuso Lekwape, Toby Schmitz, Khan Chittenden, Nicholas Hope, Maya Stange, Jolene Anderson, Tiriel Mora, Dean Kyrwood, Vanessa Buckley and Steve Le Marquand.
Writer/director: Heath Davis

WORLD PREMIERE: Melbourne International Film Festival, Wednesday August 15, 2018.

Rating: 4/5

That most engaging, enraging cinematic archetype – the boozy, lecherous but lovable literary talent gone off the rails – is given an Antipodean spin in Heath Davis’ charmingly roguish, bittersweet working-class drama, Book Week. Despite borrowing high-brow observations of the writer’s lot in life from such names as Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Bukowski, Davis’ occasionally coarse but lovably melancholy character study is a crowdpleasingly broad tale of personal redemption.

Lifelong support player Alan Dukes masterfully crafts a career-defining lead turn as Nicholas Cutler, the flailing author/reluctant academic wallowing in egotism, irresponsibility and mounting panic. If the actor starts the film walking in the footsteps of Michael Douglas’ Grady Tripp from Wonder Boys (2000) and Tom Conti’s Gowan McGland from Reuben Reuben (1983), Duke soon charts his own, equally wonderful acting path, resulting in a performance every bit as heartwarming/breaking as those revered characterisations.

Cutler once wrote a book that did well, but is now a high school teacher overseeing teens typically dismissive of literary greatness; as he tries to awaken in them a modicum of passion for Matthew Arnold’s poem Dover Beach, the students text, “Cutler is a dick.” And they are mostly right; it is a credit to Duke’s leading-man likability (the actor resembling a seen-better-days version of Richard Dreyfuss, by way of Bill Murray’s observational wryness) that Cutler does not come off as too pathetic or wantonly self-destructive to empathise with.

Over the titular period (an Aussie tradition created to drum up interest in reading and usually involving a celebratory dress-up day), Cutler remains either inebriated or trying to be, leading to clashes with upstart student-author Melanie (Rose Riley); drunken sex with free-spirited placement teacher and kindred spirit, Sarah (a terrific Airlie Dodds); inappropriate complications with age-appropriate co-worker Ms. Issen (Susan Prior, wonderful); and, a destined-for-disaster carers role, keeping wayward teen Tyrell (Thuso Lekwape) out of ‘juvie.’

The other key subplot tracks Cutler’s re-emergence as a writer, albeit of a zombie lark that reeks of career desperation, and his anxiety levels ahead of its not-quite-confirmed publication. This narrative strand, with some contributions from Rhys Muldoon, Toby Schmitz and Khan Chittenden, pitched pretty highly. Solid bit-part thesping from the likes of Jolene Anderson, Nicholas Hope, Maya Stange, Pippa Grandison and Tiriel Mora is all of the highest quality, although the film certainly feels overpopulated at times; the small-town complications and interactions occasionally echo beats of TV series formatting (with such a transition certainly viable, as there is the pulse of David Duchovny’s Californication cad Hank Moody in Cutler’s ways and a roster of characters ripe for expansion).

Book Week is most enthralling when Dukes is allowed to delve into Cutler’s darker psyche; several of the film’s best moments are when the actor has the frame to himself, or indulges in introspective angst with Dodd’s Sarah (a breakthrough role for the wonderful actress). Heath Davis announced himself as a skilful observer of damaged talents with his 2016 feature debut Broke, and his similarly-themed sophomore feature is as good a follow-up effort as the Australian industry has seen in some time. For an auteur so well versed in the existential misery of the ‘fallen idol’, Davis has to date fashioned two entirely winning films.



Stars: Erik Fellows, Daniela Bobadilla, Kam Dabrowski, Lin Shaye, Johnny Dowers, Jared Abrahamson, Blake Clark and John Savage.
Writers: Nick Field and Daniel Blake Smith.
Director: Mark David.

Rating: 3.5/5

A genuinely warm affinity for red state Americana and a flair for strong characterisation generally counter the occasional detour into bumpy narrative terrain in Texas Heart, director Mark David’s solidly staged and well-acted neo-Western. One can easily envision the likes of Montgomery Clift, Robert Mitchum and Walter Brennan filling key roles in a dusty 1950s horse-opera version of this low-key but engaging small-town story.

As Peter, an LA lawyer who has no qualms about servicing the legal needs of disreputable types, Erik Fellows (pictured, above) balances square-jawed movie-star appeal with an empathetic quality that affords him viewer’s goodwill. When a witness stand meltdown derails his defence of the son of an underworld matriarch Mrs Smith (Lin Shaye, having fun playing to the back of the theatre), Peter is marked for murder and must flee his West Coast lifestyle, relocating incognito to the backwater burg of Juniper, Texas (played by Charleston, Mississippi).

Pitching himself as New York novelist ‘Frank Stevens’, Peter fends off the ‘city slicker’ jibes and soon acquaints himself with the lives of the locals. Key amongst them is Tiger (a fine Kam Dabrowski), a young man of challenged mental capacity, and Alison (the captivating Daniela Bobadilla; pictured, below), the homecoming queen burdened with a troubled home life. When Alison goes missing and a case is made by Sheriff Dobbs (Johnny Dowers) against Tiger, Peter drops his façade and takes on the case for the defence.

Nick Field and Daniel Blake Smith’s script teeters on the brink of stereotype at times, but they imbue their characters with an integrity that overcomes the familiarity. The accomplished cast, including Jared Abrahamson (as ill-tempered jock boyfriend Roy) and John Savage (as Alison’s damaged, drunken father Carl) are given enough quality dialogue and conflict to spark the narrative at opportune moments.

Although the title conjures a sprawling landscape, Texas Heart is a film that works best in tight, two-character scenes, such as when Peter connects with Tiger at a football game, or Alison and Peter share their dreams on a late night drive. One particularly impactful sequence, in which Dobbs bullys and coerces Tiger into a confession, inevitably recalls the plight of Brendan Dassey, the 16 year-old youth convicted and sentenced to life for the murder of Teresa Halbech in 2005, whose manipulation by law enforcement officers was uncovered in the landmark documentary series, Making a Murderer.

The genre machinations of the plot are less involving and, at times, not entirely convincing. There is little tension generated by the presence of Mrs Smith’s two burly hitman, who only manage to track Peter down after the lawyer blows his cover in an ill-advised television interview. The director wraps up the criminal element story strands rather perfunctorily, suggesting his heart was far more invested in his characters than the structure that binds them.

Which, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing. A finer, more compelling and ultimately satisfying drama than it’s initial premise might suggest, Texas Heart is destined to find acceptance and appreciation from those seeking quality alternatives via their home-viewing platforms.




Stars: Aaron Jakubenko, Wade Briggs, Grant Piro, Mark Mitchell, Anna McGahan, Denise Roberts and Kevin Sorbo.
Writer/director: J.D. Scott

Rating: 3/5

So thoroughly imbued with good will to all men that one immediately feels enveloped in its wide-eyed positivity, Spirit of The Game is a bighearted mash-up of those two intrinsically middle-American movie genres – the faith-based family drama and the rousing underdog sports story.

Even by the heart tugging, tear duct welling standards these earnest narratives set for themselves, you won’t find 97 minutes of more cynicism-free cinema this year. That is an attribute likely to endear Spirit of The Game to the flyover-state core demographic, though it will ensure it remains largely confined to the mall multiplexes and small town single-screens of the heartland’s ‘Bible Belt’, before a long home entertainment after-life.

The ‘Game’ of the title is basketball, while the ‘Spirit’ is that preached by the Church of Latter Day Saints, circa early 1950s. Struggling with self worth after having his heart broken by the gal of his dreams, sensitive Utah hunk Delyle Condie (a buoyant Aaron Jakubenko) turns his back on college ball to go ‘on mission’, spreading the LDS message door-to-door in the foreign world of the Melbourne suburban wilderness. Down under, he finds most Aussies aren’t too fond of door knockers spruiking salvation (still true today), and is denied the occasional court time by rigid Church elder, President Bingham (Oz comedy icon Mark Mitchell, playing against type), who demands all waking hours be spent in the service of The Lord.

As if sent from ‘movie coincidence’ heaven, Condie’s daily rounds lead him to the front door of Australian basketball official Ken Watson (Grant Piro, especially fine), who is having his own existential struggle; namely, how to get the national team in any sort of shape for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The team of Aussies who can’t play are soon being coached by the Yank missionaries who can, ensuring both sporting and spiritual enhancement for the local lads. Some plot twists feel a bit on the nose, but the facts behind the story are undeniable (in one incredible moment, Condie pep talks a teenage Lindsay Gaze, a name that would become legend in the annals of Australian basketball).  

When word leaks that the Americans are priming the Aussies, the French team (or “winesippers”, as one character calls them, their thin moustaches and haughty attitude a tad too racially cartoonish) demand some game time with Condie’s ‘Mormon Yankees’. Giving that the climactic confrontation is a ‘friendly’, the stakes are essentially French arrogance against American spirituality, with the pic’s final frozen image leaving no doubt (as if any existed) as to the victor.

Director Darran Scott (adopting the initials ‘J.D.’ for his second feature) displays a sure hand expanding and enhancing the same soulful connection between basketball and faith he explored in his 2015 film, The Playbook. The Melbourne-bred, Wyoming-based filmmaker was born into the role of God’s messenger, having lived his youth in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands the son of a missionary father. Appropriately, Spirit of The Game has the gentle touch of a experienced preacher who knows that the best way to convey a message of salvation is to allow the congregation to feel it dawn upon them. Spirit of The Game not only espouses faith, it exhibits enough of its own – in its actors, its craftspeople and its own storytelling prowess – to engender a warm, admiring response.

Though clearly mounted on a tight budget, tech credits are generally fine, with Australian locales doubling ably for 50’s Utah in early scenes. Only name player of note in the cast is Kevin Sorbo, playing our hero's wisdom spouting, warmhearted father. His Hercules days long gone, Sorbo’s presence will pave the way for the film in key territories, given the actor’s second-wind career change as the go-to guy for faith-based drama (Soul Surfer, 2011; God’s Not Dead, 2014; Joseph and Mary, 2016). 



Stars: Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Kylie Rogers, Aaron Paul, Diane Kruger, Bruce Greenwood, Jane Fonda, Quvenzhane Wallis, Octavia Spencer and Janet McTeer.
Writer: Brad Desch.
Director: Gabriele Muccino

Screening at the 2016 Young at Heart Film Festival.

Rating: 3/5

Despite a title that implies a broad ‘everyman’ perspective, Fathers and Daughters offers little resembling the ‘real world’. From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author prone to public seizures to the social worker sex addict reconnecting to the world through the mute orphan, Gabrielle Muccino’s overripe melodrama positively overflows with a giddy commitment to its own ‘only in the movies’ excess. Audiences who well-up at the first sound of a single violin note will find enough to moisten a hankie or two in this lushly packaged, star-heavy soap opera; cynics, stop reading now.

Thematically tackling in sweeping brushstrokes the connect between childhood trauma and adult dysfunction, Muccino ultimately relies very heavily on editor Alex Rodriguez (Y Tu Mamá También, 2001; Children of Men, 2006), whose skill is tested to the limit in his handling of first time scribe Brad Desch’s back-and-forth narrative timeline. In 1989, a car crash leaves upwardly mobile writer Jake Davis (Russell Crowe) a widow and his cutie-pie daughter Katie (Kylie Rogers) without a mom; when mental health issues dictate Jake needs time in a sanitarium, Katie is put in the care of Aunt Elizabeth (Diane Kruger, gnawing on the set mercilessly) and Uncle William (Bruce Greenwood). When Jake’s latest book bombs despite the best efforts of lit-agent friend Teddy (Jane Fonda), Bill and Liz make their move on the tyke, seeking full time custody.

As all this high drama unfolds in the distant past, we become entangled in the present-day life of adult Katie (Amanda Seyfried), now a caseworker at an inner-city clinic. One minute, a hollow commitment-phobe who partakes in binge-boozing and public bathroom sex to feel any kind of connection, the next an empathetic human connection for recently orphaned Lucy (Quvenzhane Wallis), Seyfried’s doe-eyed performance runs the gamut from passion-free blankness to public histrionics. By her side in her exploration of daddy issues is writer Cameron (Aaron Paul), who brings his own obsession with Jake’s writing.

Gabrielle Muccino’s embrace of shamelessly saccharine sentimentality has found favour with international audiences previously. After scoring big beyond his homeland with the arthouse hit Remember Me, My Love (2003), Hollywood beckoned; he obliged, delivering the Will Smith double The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) and Seven Pounds (2008). Returning to grand family drama after the dire rom-com Playing For Keeps (2012), the Italian stages Jake and Katie’s journey with an unyielding commitment to gorgeousness; in line with the florid dramatics on show are DOP Shane Hurlbut’s rich visuals, production designer Daniel Clancy’s lavish sets and composer Paolo Buonvino orchestral score. When the time-hopping plot starts to strain, there is always something cinematically compelling in Fathers and Daughters.

However, Muccino’s greatest assets prove to be more personal, in the form of leading man Russell Crowe and co-star, Kylie Rogers (a seasoned pro despite her tender years after roles in Space Station 76 and the current release, Miracles From Heaven). The pair’s genuine warmth and chemistry is energising, even when the film is running off the rails in every other regard. In addition to conveying the horrible physical stresses of a grand-mal seizure on several occasions, Crowe gives a performance that invests Jake with a grounded dignity; the effortless nature of his scenes with a quivery-lipped Rogers recall the father/child dynamic between Dustin Hoffman and Justin Henry in Kramer vs Kramer (yet, in all fairness, comparisons with that or any Best Picture winner must end there).



Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Jane Seymour, Keith Carradine, Mike Starr, Vinessa Shaw, Ethan Embrey and Mike Doyle.
Writers/directors: Evangelos and George Giovanis.

Rating: 4/5

The small but fervent festival following that George and Evangelos Giovanis have developed will grow in enthusiastic numbers with their latest, Bereave. Those who backed the expertly executed crowd-funding drive to the tune of US$100,000 can be rest assured that every cent is well spent by the Greek sibling auteurs; everyone involved in this moving, acutely realised drama maximises the worthy material and is at the top of their game.

Only their fourth film in a decade and six years since their last work, the highly-honoured Run It, The Giovanis’ lyrical script opens with a gripping sequence in which waning patriarch Garvey (Malcolm McDowell) contemplates another day of directionless existence. Denied a messy self-inflicted end by the call of his wife Evelyn (Jane Seymour), Garvey is revealed as both a brash crank (“Today, you almost look beautiful,” he tells the still-stunning Seymour) and struggling with an increasingly fractured memory.

As the day unfolds, Evelyn’s patience with her boorish, troubled husband begins to unravel inexorably until her own attempts at a final booze-and-pill cocktail send her into the unfriendly Los Angeles night. Struggling to cope with their parents strained marriage and shrinking mortality are daughter Penelope (Vinessa Shaw), a single mother fearful that she is losing grip of her own pre-teen daughter, Cleo (Rachel Eggleston); and, son Steve (Mike Doyle), a decent man whose West Coast charms ensnare the lithesome Natalie (Hannah Cowley) but barely register with his distracted, flighty mother.

Some third act melodrama involving petty thugs and the occasional over-indulgence in florid dialogue (“I only speak violin”) can’t derail the strength of character-driven central narrative established masterfully in the films first half. Powerful scenes of potent drama set largely in the protagonist’s slick, sleek chrome-and-glass apartment allow McDowell and, in particular, Seymour some of their best on-screen moments in many years. The British acting pair find a deep, dark complexity to the marital dynamic, the filmmakers affording their stars the time and space to delve deep into the damaged psyches of Garvey and Evelyn.

A terrific Keith Carradine rounds out the acting honours as Garvey’s longtime confidant, the alpha-male Victor, his presence crucial to a subplot that thematically reinforces the emotional pain of receding memory. An extended sequence early in the film, in which Garvey reveals for Victor the desperation of his existence, provides McDowell and Carradine the kind of dramatic beats only the finest of thespians could pull off; both are mesmerising in the scene.

Recalling Michael Haneke’s Amour in its exploration of fading memory, mature-age love and dwindling life force but played against the broader backdrop of the noir-ish LA sprawl, Bereave is an achingly insightful, darkly humorous, richly rewarding work by two important creative forces. It must certainly be the last time the Brothers Giovanis have to rely on passionate fans and their own sales skill to secure feature film funding. The coffers of those that oversee the top tier of international film production should be open to these mature, masterful, unique storytellers immediately.

Screening at the Byron Bay International Film Festival. Session details and tickets available here.