Movie Review – Secret Scripture

Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara deliver two very strong performances of one woman at two very different times in her life, and the horrific events that were designed to break her.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

The Secret Scripture, based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry, focuses on the story of Rose McNulty (Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara), a woman who has been institutionalised for over fifty years. When the institution she’s at has to relocate her, Dr Stephen Grene (Eric Bana) is requested to go and conduct a psych evaluation of her. As he proceeds to evaluate her, Dr Grene is drawn to her story and begins to realise she may not be the mentally deranged old lady that everyone makes her out to be.

The Secret Scripture is a beautifully shot film with a theme that seems highly relevant to the going-on’s of today. Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman captures the beauty and severity of the Irish landscape with the same perceptive lens as he did in the 2014 Russian drama Leviathan. The wide shots of the Irish landscape are both beautiful but harsh, with a dangerous undertone, not unlike the town Sligo, where the film is set.

The situation Rose finds herself in is not too dissimilar to what a lot of females are currently speaking out against, making this film both extremely relevant, and, I fear, just as likely to be excluded from the awards season due to the current controversy plaguing Hollywood.

Redgrave plays the elderly Rose very well, convincing you at the beginning that she is genuinely mad, but its her gradual insistence about telling her story to Dr Grene that shows the strong resilience Rose has to just give up and give in to the situation she’s been put in. Mara plays the younger Rose, and is ethereal as always, with the younger Rose wearing her resilience and quick-wit as a shield to the unwanted attention she receives from the small, gossipy Irish village people. Her fall from a headstrong, confident young woman into the emotionally battered shell that she ends up becoming is heart breaking to watch, particularly as she doesn’t give up easily.

Another standout was Theo James, who has come a long way since his Divergent days, giving a convincing performance as Father Gaunt. He manages to charm the audience before revealing his darker intentions later in the piece. Bana also gets a honourable mention for playing Dr Grene with a certain delicacy, but his character’s story was really secondary to Rose’s so he didn’t get enough screen time to really make an impact.

The only let down in this whole film for me was the ending. The film moved at a pace which was steady, carefully breaking down and detailing the events that lead to Rose being committed. However, it then proceeded to wrap up the entire film in 15 minutes, which just wasn’t enough time to properly analyse the crucial points which led to the big reveal at the end. The clunky ending gave the feeling that director Jim Sheridan was cautious of time, but I would have much preferred for the film to go on that little bit longer so the pace was maintained and the ending felt much more rounded and complete.

Overall Sheridan has done another great job at exploring a character that is positioned on the fringe of society, and the destructive nature in which human beings deal with those who are slightly different or unwilling to conform. There are some stellar performances from the cast, and the story is one that gives hope, even if it means simply waiting for the right time.

Secret Scripture is available in Australian Cinemas December 7

Image courtesy of Transmission Films.

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Review – The Man Who Invented Christmas

A stocking stuffed with quite a lot of wrapping paper, The Man Who Invented Christmas struggles to get through its own excess.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

The thing about The Man Who Invented Christmas (TMWIC) is that you’ve seen most of it before. A respectable chunk of the film is a straight adaptation of A Christmas Carol – the same story you’ve been hearing since you were a child. It’s nice, it’s heart-warming, it’s a classic, and it’s been adapted dozens of times, sometimes with more panache than on this occasion (A Muppet Christmas Carol remains a personal favourite). So the first knock against TMWIC is simply that its version of A Christmas Carol isn’t all that special. The second knock is that the other story it’s telling – how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) came to write A Christmas Carol – is both overstuffed and dull. Not exactly a winning combination.

TMWIC opens to Dickens coming off the high of a tour of America. Cut to a year and two flops later: Dickens is broke and needs a hit to get through Christmas. His publishers laugh at him when he suggests a Christmas story. “It’s October, you haven’t written anything yet, and nobody cares about Christmas!” They say, being the savvy business people they are. Dickens stubbornly ignores them and decides to risk everything to self-publish the novel. In the process, characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) come alive through Dickens’ thoughts and begin tormenting him. To triumph, Dickens is forced to wrestle not only with his characters, but also the inner demons they represent.

Dan Stevens does solid work here. His Dickens is energetic and conflicted – pushed and pulled by both outer and inner forces, he is perpetually bouncing between problems – and Stevens does admirable work keeping everything centred. Likewise, Plummer is a reliable source of amusement and is devilishly delicious as Scrooge. Avoiding the temptation of passivity, Plummer keeps his Scrooge engaged in the act of torturing his creator. Plummer’s dynamic with Stevens is perhaps the film’s saving grace and is certainly its most well-developed aspect. If only the filmmakers had focused in on that, we might’ve had something recommendable.

Instead, we get an abundance of subplots that dull the film, like running a knife across a rock. Some of them – like William Makepeace Thackeray – just need snappier editing to liven things up. Others – like Dickens’ nephew, the inspiration for Tiny Tim – should be jokes instead of entire scenes. These would be minor quibbles if there weren’t so damn many of them. There are at least three different subplots that desperately need trimming, and one that needs to be deleted entirely. Those stories come at the expense of the main one, killing its momentum and making you wish the film would go back to the mediocre version of A Christmas Carol.

You can praise TMWIC’s production design (it’s quite lavish), and performances (universally solid), but you’ll find it hard to praise the film they’re in service of. Quite simply it doesn’t serve them back. Charles Dickens’ life should make for an entertaining film, but unfortunately, this Christmas story isn’t it.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is available in Australian Cinemas November 30

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution.

Movie Review – The Disaster Artist

One of the most anticipated comedies of the year; three Hooked on Film reviewers previewed James Franco’s new film The Disaster Artist, and this is what they thought.

 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐  ½
Michael Philp

 The Disaster Artist is the true story behind the best worst movie known to man – The Room. Dubbed the “all-conquering cult leader of bad movies,” by our own Rhys Graeme-Drury, The Room is a film that has to be seen to be believed. Hilarious, insane, and awe-inspiring, you will think it can’t get crazier, immediately before it tops itself for the tenth time. Astonishingly, the story of its creation is even weirder.

The centrepiece of The Disaster Artist is undoubtedly Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) – the director of The Room and the world’s greatest source of unintentional comedy. A living, breathing rejected Men in Black design, Wiseau is a comedic gift from the heavens. If it weren’t for the pre-show interview, you’d swear he couldn’t be real. Franco is phenomenal in his dedication to the role, mining comedy from even the simplest of interactions. His brother, Dave Franco – playing straight-man Greg Sestero – is equally good, but is overshadowed by the sheer comedic force of Wiseau’s visage.

The Disaster Artist wrings comedy gold from Wiseau’s very existence. James Franco’s performance is a hysterical character study of a man who remains one of the greatest mysteries of our era. When a simple football kick can raise the house, you know you’re watching something special. The perfect follow up to a perfectly imperfect film, The Disaster Artist is easily one of the best comedies of the year.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐  ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

The best thing about The Disaster Artist, I found, wasn’t that it is hilarious and ingeniously referential, which of course it is – it’s that the film melds elements of parody perfectly with shades of sincerity, in the process forming a well-rounded package that is captivating, strange, emotional and uplifting, sometimes all in the same scene.

 This isn’t just James Franco, his brother and some of their mates (Seth Rogen plays a script editor, Zac Efron makes an appearance) pointing and laughing at Wiseau and his abominable cult classic. No, there is authentic affection and earnestness ingrained in Franco’s film; a wholesome genuineness about it.

The prologue, which sees a host of famous faces including Kristen Bell, Adam Scott and J.J. Abrams, take time out of their schedule to gush about The Room, sets the scene perfectly; this isn’t mean-spirited or heckling Wiseau, it’s a sonnet overflowing with affection for everything from terrible cult cinema to those who chase their dreams and fall through the cracks. The screenplay, penned by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, preserves Wiseau’s eccentricities, keeps the narrative tight and ensures the focus remains firmly on his relationship with Sestero and their shared dream of making it big.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

As the age-old expression goes, what else is there left to say that hasn’t been said already? The Disaster Artist is everything a great comedy does and everything that a sincerely heartfelt film can be. However, more importantly, it’s a film that ultimately acts as a tale and tool for inspiration.

Whilst you can laugh (as almost everyone has done so) at Wiseau’s foolish antics and absurd aspirations for his life, we are given a chance to respect his endless pursuit for his dreams amongst the numerous obstacles in his way. It can be as simple as making a pact, or rather a pinky promise, between a friend, and never failing to protect that asseveration.

It’s about following the path of enduring the pain, where everything around you is telling you you’re wrong and the courage to continue to following it. This is why Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sistero are beacons of hope. Life will not always turn out the way you planned it, but if you want it strongly enough, it will be exactly how you need it. So, fail spectacularly and become a global sensation: that is the story of The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist is available at Luna Cinemas from November 30, Australia wide December 7.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

Movie review – Wonder

Refreshingly detailed, Wonder is a joy for both adults and pre-teens alike.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp

It would be reasonable to be wary of Wonder. The trailers have sold it as two hours of Jacob Tremblay teaching the world to be nice – pure schmaltz, in other words. That’s a shame because the film goes out of its way to not be that. Admittedly, a large portion of it is still overly sweet, but it counterbalances that with a thoughtful approach to character and world-building. The world does not revolve around Tremblay’s August “Auggie” Pullman, and thankfully neither does Wonder.

Auggie is a ten-year-old boy living in New York with his family: his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), his father, Nate (Owen Wilson), and his sister, Olivia (Izabela Vidovic). Auggie suffers from Treacher-Collins Syndrome, which has left him with significant facial deformities. He is the kid you can’t look away from, and he knows it. When the film begins, Auggie is preparing for his first year of elementary school, having been home-schooled for most of his life. Wonder follows him through most of that year and all of the challenges it presents, like new friends, enemies and science lessons.

But, and this is key to the success of the whole thing, Wonder also follows Olivia through that year, giving her a fully realised character arc that’s probably as detailed as Auggie’s. From her perspective, Auggie is a sun that everyone else revolves around – an attention vacuum that threatens to swallow their family whole.

If you want to get meta, Auggie is the low-hanging fruit that these kinds of films get fixated on – easily marketable, designed from the ground up for emotional manipulation – at the expense of their other characters. Wonder is better than that. Rather than blind itself staring at Auggie, the film wisely decides to spend long stretches away from him and his problems. Wonder dedicates substantial screen-time to exploring the planets orbiting Auggie, and it has crafted every single one of them thoughtfully enough to make them worth that time.

At its core, Wonder is about perspective. Auggie’s favourite holiday is Halloween because it allows him complete control over how people see him – it is the one day of the year where he can be Boba Fett instead of “the plague,” as the bullies insist on labelling him. You’ll find these details both textually and sub-textually, and they exemplify the humanity at the centre of Wonder. Adults, keep an eye out for some of the more subtle ones; the film rewards you for doing so.

Not everything works though. Wonder’s quality noticeably dips with an unnecessary school trip to a nature reserve. The trip is an attempt to bring the bullies into the light, but by the time it arrives the film is already pushing its runtime. Worse still, there’s a concussion scare that instantly fizzles out, leaving a weird shadow over a scene that’s supposed to be positive.

You can’t call Wonder sugary – that implies an emptiness that the film works hard to avoid. Yes, it’s a sweet film, and it is a little on the nose sometimes, but it has a strong foundation. It cares about people and giving them the time they deserve. Because of that, the film is probably better suited to children of Olivia’s age rather than Auggie’s. They are the ones that will appreciate the depth of thought put into the characters, while younger ones might struggle with the run-time. Still, Wonder’s message of empathy will resonate with all ages, and for that, it deserves to be seen.

Wonder is available in Australian cinemas from November 30

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

Movie Review – Lucky

A fitting send-off for a fine veteran actor.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic

 

2017 has been an unfortunate reminder of how time slowly comes for us all, even for those actors whom we so dearly love to watch on screen that that to imagine a world without them would simply be too disheartening. Harry Dean Stanton was one of those deaths that came all too soon, and at the ripe old age of 91, his final film Lucky, serves as a fitting end and no doubt a grim personal reflection for the actor.

The film follows the life of Lucky, a 90-year-old atheist who struggles with the idea of his imminent death amongst those who appear more joyful and content at their old age. Immediately, such a storyline resonates with its lead actor in Stanton but whilst it appears to be a heavy hearted affair, Stanton manages to add enough humour to make it pleasant to watch. He’s even joined by life friend and longtime collaborator David Lynch, who plays his best friend and the chemistry the two share is worth a watch to say the least.

What Lucky does well is telling its message raw and upfront. There are moments where Stanton delivers a lamenting monologue with such unflinching delivery that it stands out as both a highlight of the film and him as an actor. He’s a stubborn, cynical old man who knows he’s going to depart soon and is afraid of what lies ahead. He’s scared shitless, as he says, and this is what makes him human. You sympathise for his plea instead of turning away from what could have been delivered as an arrogant atheist. It makes you appreciate the life you want to live out for yourself and in turn gain the respect to the elderly that you might have forgotten to hold.

Whilst these ideas are great and tell an important outlook on life, they’re not exactly very original. There are plenty of other movies that deal with the same subject but do so far better. Synecdoche, New York and Mary and Max ring a bell and unfortunately Lucky simply can’t compete with the best. Overall, it works simply as a nice slow burn of a movie with a deep-hearted message. Instances between Lynch and Stanton are great, and Lucky himself has a few witty moments and remarks that make you smile but aside from that, it’s not much else.

You know essentially what you’re getting yourself into when you come to watch the trailer, but this doesn’t have to detract from the experience. Lucky is still a well-made film. It’s acted to a tee, it’s executed with aplomb from a technical standpoint and it ultimately holds an important message. If only it’s storyline could have been more interesting with more going on, but perhaps that’s the point director John Carroll Lynch wants to show.

Lucky is available in Australian cinemas from November 16 (Perth- November 23).

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.

Movie Review – Tulip Fever

Tulip Fever burns slower than it takes for a tulip to grow and bloom.


Elle Cahill

It’s 17th Century Amsterdam and a wealthy Dutchman, Cornelis Sandvoort and his wife, Sophia, are having trouble conceiving. Despite the young wife’s fears that her much older husband will soon divorce her, he pays for up-and-coming artist Jan van Loos to paint their portrait. As he paints the couple, van Loos quickly falls in love with the young Sophia and they start a passionate affair.

There is a lot going on in Tulip Fever, and for the most part it’s hard to keep up with all the different storylines. For almost every character that is introduced in the film, we are given a sliver of their story without any real development, both from a story and character perspective. I counted a total of seven storylines, which is too big a number to fit into a 105-minute film, particularly when the film is also trying to set up the historical backdrop of the tulip mania that took over Amsterdam in the 17th Century, and plays a large part in the overall story.

Tulip Fever has a phenomenal cast including Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz, Alicia Vikander, Tom Hollander, Jack O’Connell, and many more, but director Justin Chadwick fails to utilise their full potential. Dench effortlessly steals every scene she’s in as the head nun of a local parish in charge of growing the tulips for auction, as does Waltz in his portrayal of husband Cornelis Sandvoort, who genuinely loves Sophia (Vikander) and wants to do right by her but is desperate for her to deliver an heir. Hollander also get’s an honourable mention as the sleazy doctor who brings moments of comic relief to an otherwise contrived plot. But this is far from being their best work and feels like a huge waste of talent.

The most interesting part of the film is its attempt at exploring the tulip mania. While it fails to truly show the significance of the mania, it helps establish the film’s setting, and also give a basic insight to the craze that overtook Amsterdam. Unfortunately, like the rest of the film, it gets muddled up with all the concurrent character arcs and fails to bring anything other than tulips to the story.

There is some beautiful cinematography by Eigil Bryld, particularly when Sophia’s on the beach at various points in the film, but most of the time these scenes feel overly indulgent.

Tulip Fever is a real slow-burner that has a lot going on across the various storylines without any proper development taking place. Its failure to pick a central character leaves you feeling confused at the end, as you’re not invested in any of them. I also can’t tell you who or what the antagonist is in this film because it’s never properly identified. This film should serve as a warning as to what happens when indulgence trumps quality.

Tulip Fever is available in Australian cinemas from November 23.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

 

Movie Review – Justice League

DC takes two steps forward and one step back on its bumper team-up tentpole, Justice League.

⭐ ⭐  ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

After fours years, just as many films and a hype train large enough to tow a small planet, DC and Warner Brothers hastily arrive at their Avengers moment in Justice League, a crossover event that sees established superheroes like Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman team up with fresh faces such as The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

Their mission is to stop Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an ancient interdimensional demon from uniting three ‘mother boxes’, shiny Rubix Cubes with the power to destroy all life on Earth when joined as one.

Having undergone a troubled production, the expectation going in is that Justice League would be a mess, visually, tonally and narratively. Unfortunately, those fears appear to have been well-founded for the most part; Snyder’s third swing of the bat isn’t a miss on the scale of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it’s hardly the home run many fans were hoping for either.

Narratively, cowriters Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon (the latter of whom also directed a few reshoots after Snyder departed following a family tragedy) cobble together a passable plot that is markedly more straightforward than its bloated predecessor.

This streamlining is a good thing; rather than getting bogged down by mythology, Justice League (with Whedon offering some of his trademark quips) affords its central five heroes time to interact. Batman and Wonder Woman don’t see eye to eye; Cyborg isn’t a fan of Flash’s silliness. It endears us to their cause, making the abysmal CGI throwdown in the third act at least tolerable.

Visually, Justice League isn’t great. The VFX lacks polish and an overreliance on green screen is abundantly clear once the heroes jet off to face their ultimate foe in the final act. The reshoots and last minute tinkering hasn’t done much to help in this department.

The cast is a mixed bag as well; Affleck swings between suave and narcoleptic; Gadot is equal parts a radiant beam of sunlight and a thrilling whirlwind of ferocity; Miller is a jittery and sarcastic millennial who can’t sit still; Fisher is stoic and only afforded a hint of depth; and Momoa’s Aquaman is an insufferable X Games bro with milky white contacts and a penchant for surf lingo – it comes as a surprise that he doesn’t throw a single shaka.

Even the score is a hodgepodge of intersecting leitmotifs, as Danny Elfman throws everything but the kitchen sink into the mix; Hans Zimmer’s uplifting Man of Steel theme and Junkie XL’s thunderous Wonder Woman cues overlap with John Williams’ original Superman theme and Elfman’s own 1989 Batman score. The result is clunky and disjointed – a summation that extends to most of Justice League, to be brutally honest.

And so, we arrive at the end. Things are more hopeful, the status quo has shifted once again and better things to come are teased. But it does beg the question, how long can audiences go before the crippling mediocrity (save for Wonder Woman) lastingly cripples DC’s efforts to ape Marvel? Justice League sees the former lean into the latter’s formula heavily, and it signals a shift in the right direction, albeit a slow one. Once again I find myself whispering under the breath – “maybe the next one will be better…”

Justice League is available in Australian cinemas from November 16.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

Movie Review – The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven delivers good feelings and professional entertainment value, but does little to distinguish itself from its formidable forebears.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

The worst scene in The Magnificent Seven comes right at the end; undoing what the rest of the movie worked so hard to achieve. The point of this story – first envisioned in Kurosawa’s sprawling masterpiece, Seven Samurai (1954), later reimagined in countless other tributes and remakes (including Pixar’s A Bug’s Life) – is selflessness in the line of honour. The samurai were honourable warriors, bound by bushido. Cowboys were bound by their egos. What they shared in common was the rejection of self-gain. The 1960 Magnificent Seven understood this. This new Hollywood remake, directed by Antoine Fuqua, tacks on a closing scene that converts its guns-for-hire into immortalised heroes, effectively gut-punching itself.

And what a pity that is, because the rest of it feels like a solid Western. It’s not limp or dated. Its production values are convincing. It comes meaty, ready for a fight. In an age where filmmakers favour CGI shortcuts, Fuqua has made the right decision to root his film in solid ground. The town of Rose Creek is actually there, built with wood and nails. Explosions are rigged and timed. Stuntmen tumble off rooftops and plough through windows. Physical action gives the movie weight and visual depth, a leisure that’s no longer easy to come by.

Denzel Washington plays Sam Chisolm, the Yul Brynner character from the original remake, and doesn’t so much chew up the scenery as stand back and admire it. Washington is always reliable, but here he seems too passive to be the leader of a troupe of gun-slinging, macho monkeys. I can’t remember a single impressive thing he does in the entire film.

Elsewhere, the cast tries to be as diverse as politically and financially possible. It introduces a Korean knife-thrower (Lee Byung-Hun); a Mexican outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) in full cabrón mode; and throws in a Comanche archer (Martin Sensmeier) for good measure. The problem is, by the time the big old gunfight thunders its way around the corner, none of these “interesting” characters do anything worth noting. And the gunfight, as impressive as it is, resembles a chaos party hosted by anarchy. It’s hard to tell what’s happening, and to whom. There are so many bad guys for our heroes to gun down that you might begin to suspect they’re growing out of the soil like potatoes.

But for what it’s worth, this Magnificent Seven is a good, harmless time. The interplay between the characters is often electric and the way the screenplay whittles down the ensemble cast shows restraint and diplomacy. It is, however, still a movie that need not have been made. But it has, and we’re neither better or worse off for it. I just wish the final scene had been omitted. It reeks of studio interference. I don’t want to have to wait for a home release to catch an alternate ending.

The Magnificent Seven is available in Australian cinemas from September 29

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures 

Movie Review – The Confirmation

Amidst the modern multiplex madness, it’s refreshing to find a humble little film about quaint father and son bonding.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

As his mother and her new husband prepare for a weekend away at a Catholic retreat, eight-year-old Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) reluctantly readies himself for spending time with his father Walt (Clive Owen), a deadbeat, down-on-his-luck alcoholic carpenter. Walt lands a potential job, but his prospects are complicated when his prized tool kit is stolen and he’s locked out of his house by his landlord. Anthony and Walt set about finding the culprit who nabbed the tools, and begin to form an unexpected bond along the way.

There’s quite a modest and old-timey feeling that courses through The Confirmation, the directorial debut of 60-year-old Bob Nelson (writer of Alexander Payne’s Nebraska). It’s a small film that’s intimate in scope and humbly unambitious, but it certainly has its heart in the right place. Like last year’s Grandma, it’s an unanticipated curveball situation thrusted upon two estranged generations, forcing them together through spontaneous hijinks and incubating a relationship in the process.

A true rarity for entertainment in this day and age, Nelson’s characters are (at least partially) defined by their religious beliefs, be it Anthony’s purity and lack of sin as a result of frequent churchgoing, or Walt’s abandonment of his former moral ways left behind with his ex-wife. Religion serves as a backdrop for the film, but there’s a sense that a lot more could have been made of this now seldom-seen motif; it’s simply there to point out Anthony’s morality. This is huge potential left tragically untapped.

Overall, it’s all a bit too straight-faced, to the point that it occasionally feels like the actors are reading directly from a script page. Then there are the odd, out of place moments of threat and violence that completely rattle the realism at play. This might have worked for a more satirical film, but it’s simply distracting in this unambiguous and clear-cut coming-of-age story.

What Nelson does nail is the father-and-son relationship between Walt and Anthony; it organically forms as the film progresses and we genuinely feel the pair pulling closer together. Clive Owen’s big screen appearances are few and far between these days, and Walt is a far cry from his typical action hero. It’s a restrained performance that shows the subtle gravitas of a man under such pressure that the cracks begin to show on the surface. It’s surprising how much chemistry he shares with young Lieberher (St. Vincent, Midnight Special) who displays a terrific innocence and wisdom beyond his years.

Ultimately it’s a simple series of misadventures between a boy and his pop, but their rewarding magnetism makes this low-key journey worth embarking upon.

The Confirmation is available in Australian cinemas from September 22

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution 

Interview: Ruth Borgobello – Italian Film Festival

Josip Knezevic 

Although born in Australia, an Italian heart beats within filmmaker Ruth Borgobello. Her groundbreaking debut feature The Space Between is the first Italian-Australian collaboration since a treaty was established between the countries 20 years ago.

The film follows the journey of former chef Marco (Flavio Parenti), who has long stopped searching for his place in the world. Looking to numb the pain from a sudden loss in his life, he returns to his hometown in Northern Italy. He soon meets young Australian woman Olivia (Maeve Dermody) who slowly begins to spark life back into Marco. They find themselves drifting through the voids between death and rebirth to allow themselves to bridge reality and realise their dreams.

As the headline feature for the Italian Film Festival this September, I got the chance to chat with Borgobello to talk all things Italian-Australian and hopes for the future of women working in the film and television industry.

JK: You’ve invested a lot of time into producing Italian/Australian stories. Can you tell me what made you so interested in establishing these connections and why you wanted your debut feature to be the first Italian-Australia co-production?

RB: Sure, I’m half Italian, half Australian. I was born and raised in Australia, but I guess growing up and discovering Italian films – largely through the Italian Film Festival – I felt a strong connection to that sort of style of filmmaking. Travelling to Italy a lot, I was very inspired by the locations and this kind of energy and emotion that exists in Italy, which was harder to tune into in Australia – it’s a bit more hidden. I think also life in Italy – which doesn’t seem like it from Australia – is much harder. There’s more of a struggle inherent in stories that I’ve been attracted to.

JK: The co-production treaty between Italy and Australia has been signed for quite some time, why do you think it took so long for a feature film to be made between the two countries?

RB: I knew about the treaty, but I didn’t realise it hadn’t been used before. That was something I discovered, and when I first went to Italy to meet with producers to talk to them about doing it, I was quite naïve thinking, “Oh yeah, we’ve got this co-production and it will be fantastic”. They were interested in it, but also because it hadn’t been done, it was a bit of a psychological block. For Australian producers as well, I think there’s a suspiciousness that if it’s never been done before then maybe it doesn’t work or it’s too difficult and filmmaking is hard enough as is. Then we found a producer that was really willing to make it work and there was this growing interest and willingness from Italy and our people that supported the film in Australia. We had philanthropists and private investors that were connected to the Italian community and they really wanted to make it work because it hadn’t worked before, so I think this was the key. So for us it was really about building relationships and forging trust.

JK: You mentioned that life in Italy is harder than it looks. The film looks into the idea that despite being surrounded by immense historical and natural beauty, the characters have become blind to the potential within. Where did these ideas come from and what are you alluding it to in terms of dreams of the past for the Italian people?

RB: I guess like in the 60s, 70s and even 80s, there was so much promise in Italy. My grandparents left in the 50s after the war and it was a very depressed time. Now they actually say it’s worse than it was then. There were all these hopes and dreams created from our parent’s generation. They fought for their rights and created a great standard of living and amazing tourism. But then I think maybe when Europe came to be and the Euro came in, everything began to shift in Italy. I know from my husband who’s Italian and our mutual friends that all studied and are highly professional that they found themselves trapped in jobs where they were getting paid very minimal wages. At some point everything just stopped and when the Euro came in, prices doubled, but the wages stayed the same. I think they’ve just come to learn to live within these limitations and not fight for more, which was what their parents had done. It’s this strange thing in which maybe they’ve had it easy and then had it difficult and just clung to security instead of actually trying to push through and make things better.

JK: Wow, I didn’t even know that.

RB: Yeah, not many people in Australia do because we’re sort of sold this tourism. But the reality of life in Italy is very tough. There’s so many young Italians that have this dream to have the freedom and opportunity and most of them are shocked about how much they get paid here and how much they’re valued here as well.

JK: I love the quote before the film starts “Strange not to go on wishing one’s wishes. Strange to see all that was once in place, floating so loosely in space” How did you come across this and was it a source of inspiration for the film?

RB: Yes, that’s a really good question. The quote is from Rainer Maria Rilke poetry from the Duino Elegies. Every time I go to Italy, I visit this one place called Duino – which actually features in the film – and I always loved this place and felt like it was my favourite place in the whole world, even though it’s this tiny little town that nobody knows about. When I writing the script, I came across the poetry and realised there was a connection there. I’ve never known about the poet, but when I read it I just felt like it really captured what I wanted to say with the film. There was this kind of emotion and sense of loss in the poetry, trying to search for meaning within – that was what I wanted to say with the film.

JK: That’s amazing that you found it while you were writing the script. Seems almost like it was fate.

RB: Yeah I had a very strong reaction to it when I read it. There was something in it that really struck a chord with me. And obviously poetry is something that’s very hard to bring into film so we tried to do it in a subtle way.

JK: The film ends on a bittersweet note and I was curious to see if you thought of writing an epilogue on that happens to our main characters. Would you be interested in revisiting these characters in sequels?

RB: That’s so funny, I was just having this discussion with my editor. I was saying to him that when we finished shooting, I felt like I really wanted to start writing the next part. I really wanted to know what happened to them myself. I talked to the actors just after we shot that ending scene and asked them about what would happen and they both had different interpretations. I wanted to leave it open and I wanted to give it that sense of maybe they stay together, but everyone takes away a different interpretation. Flavio was very strong that they weren’t going to stay together, but Maeve was very strong that they were. My sense is that they would come back. Either way Flavio said he was desperate to do another one.

JK: Was this a personal film to make in terms of the context you’ve had growing up as a filmmaker in Australia and in terms of its subject matter of love and loss?

RB: Yeah, it was inspired by when I did meet my husband. We met in very similar circumstances in terms of him losing someone very important. We spent time together even though that had happened. And we had this strong connection that ended up developing into a relationship down the track. So it was sort of inspired by that, but then I made the characters very fictional.

JK: Being so involved with developing Italian-Australian relations, could you talk about some of your favourite Italian and Australian films that may have influenced you down this path?

RB: Federico Fellini is definitely one of my favourite directors. 8 ½ is my favourite all time film because I just feel like its perfection in cinema. In terms of Australian films, I recently watched and loved Looking for Grace that Katie our DOP shot. I think that’s one of the best Australian films I’ve seen in a while even though it’s kind of been under the radar.

JK: There aren’t many women working in the film and television industry in Australia, is there any reason why that number is low and do you sense we will be seeing more of a female presence in the future?

RB: Yes, it definitely will be. When I finished the film, my partner and I kept saying, “Yes you’re in the 16%”, but I never took notice of just how few women there are in the film industry. There’s very few in Italy. I think it’s well under the 16% in Australia, but I really don’t know why it is like that. I know with Palace Films, they’ve been extremely encouraging with this project because I am female. They really want to support women in film and their audience is mostly women, so it’s really important for them to have a strong female voice in more female films. So I think hearing things like that from a big distributor chain is a good sign definitely for the future.

The Italian Film Festival screens at Cinema Paradiso in Perth from September 22 to October 12

Image courtesy of Palace Films