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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Rowan Woods|
scr Jacqueline Perske
with Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, Martin Henderson, Noni Hazlehurst, Dustin Nguyen, Joel Tobeck, Lisa McCune, Susie Porter, Anh Do, Daniela Farinacci, Lisa Bailey
release Aus 8.Sep.05,
US 24.Feb.06, UK 21.Jul.06
05/Australia First Look 1h54
Family outing: Hazlehurst, Henderson and Blanchett
From the director of The Boys, here's another searing award-winning drama about siblings caught on the wrong side of society. This time it's drugs and money trouble, and the film just as stunning.
Tracy (Blanchett) is an ex-junkie hoping to start her own business in Sydney's Vietnamese neighbourhood. She hangs out with Lionel (Weaving), who her mother (Hazlehurst) dumped for giving drugs to both Tracy and her nice-but-dim brother Ray (Henderson). Lionel, meanwhile, is struggling to cope with the fact that his beloved dealer (Neill) is retiring. And Tracy is unnerved to discover that her ex (Nguyen) is back in town, although he seems to have straightened out. When the bank refuses Tracy's loan application, to whom will she turn for help?
The title refers to these helpless people in their big pond (and also to heroin fixes in tiny soy-sauce fish). Their lives are intertwined, often in ways they don't realise; it's not easy for us to keep it straight either. Despite the harrowing subject matter, Woods keeps the film offhanded and natural, which lets us identify deeply with the characters, because they're all normal people who have simply made some bad decisions along the way.
And it helps to have a cast like this giving raw performances that are never remotely mannered. Blanchett is at her best in a complex, gripping role. We acutely feel her desperation, temptation, hope, embarrassment, fear. Neill is edgy and rather scary, because we don't know what he's capable of. Henderson and Hazlehurst are vivid and empathetic. And Weaving is a revelation, going completely against type as a sexy-beardy rocker-type.
The light, evocative tone only makes the intensity that much stronger. It's a shattering film that never gets too heavy, even when at its most nerve-wracking. This is a remarkable achievement--a perfect blending of writer, director and cast that could have been strengthened only by clarifying the interrelationships. But as the noose tightens around these people, their nerves and fears actually submerge, which is startlingly powerful and involving. In the end, the film lingers long and hard in our minds because we feel like we lived it.
|Steve stavrou, Brisbane "Rivetting despair is all I can say. Quality acting and no cliches here. had me from start to finish." (10.Mar.12)|
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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