Starring Guy Pearce, Ben Mendelsohn, Jacki Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford and James Frecheville
The film opens with a seemingly ordinary scene. Seventeen year old "J" (James Frecheville) is quietly watching a game show with his mother who appears to be asleep next to him on the couch. What we learn next is that she's just had a heroin overdose. There's a chilling quietness that blankets the first scene and that atmosphere lingers until the end. Right from the very beginning, the film tightly grips you by the neck and will slowly shatter your very core.
With no other guardian to look after him J is forced to live with his family, all criminals, for whom his mother kept him away from for years. It's not long until things start to get out of hand and the helpless J finds himself torn in a battle between loyalty and morality.
The family is played by some of the most talented Australians actors working today. Ben Mendelsohn plays the uncle, "Pope", who is both comic and relentlessly monstrous. Jacki Weaver plays Janine, the creepy over-attached, mother figure whose expressions barely hide the beast lurking within. But it is Frecheville who steal the show. He plays his character with such restraint, his face alone can tell stories of a young man hardened in a world of crime, and not once did I feel that I was disconnected from the character.
But for me, the film's strength is its pacing and editing. It's a slow burn film and one that doesn't rely on micro-second shots and quick editing, but rather lets the story unfold in a natural pace, it's a patient movie and a very disciplined one.
I cannot express in words how well-made this film is all aspects. The way it is photographed is stunning, truly captures that dark crime drama mood but not too dark that it dehumanises the characters. The actors are brilliantly directed, there are no wasted moments in the film, each frame perfectly captures the tiny nuances and expressions of the characters and exposes the fragile relationships between them. Surprisingly this is David Michod's first feature film. I cannot wait what he does in the future, I have high expectations for him. He co-wrote Hesher which I'm excited to see next month for the Sydney Film Fest.
I really hope that people get behind this fantastic movie both in Australia and internationally, it's a film that deserves to be seen in the big screen and in a packed theatre because judging from the gasps, the laughs and the quiet moments of shock I heard in the screening I attended, this is one to share with other people.
For the past two or so years, Australia has been churning out some of the most ambitious and thought provoking films, ones that wield so much power over you that you just can't help but sing praises. If these types of film continue to roll out from the great Down Under then its film industry will certainly be a force to be reckoned with.