Melbourne, June, 7th, 2017 (Peter Malone). Below, find the first part of film critics written by Peter Malone for the month of June.

  • 20th CENTURY WOMEN
  • AFTER THE STORM
  • ALIEN COVENANT
  • BAG OF MARBLES, A/ UN SAC DE BILLES
  • CASE FOR CHRIST, The
  • CHURCHILL
  • DOG’S PURPOSE, A
  • DON’T TELL
  • EMO, THE MUSICAL
  • FUOCOAMARE/ FIRE AT SEA
  • GET OUT

20th CENTURY WOMEN

US, 2016, 119 minutes, Colour.

Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Lucas Jade Zumann, Alison Elliott.

Directed by Mike Mills.

Or more precisely, some 20th-century American women. While the stories of the three women at the centre of this film can resonate in different parts of the world, the tone and style, the atmosphere and many of the issues are particularly American. They may not resonate at all in a vast number of societies around the world.

The setting is 1979, the place Santa Barbara, California. It is a comfortable city, comfortable homes, the beaches, the wonderful California coast, sun is shining. While the film is anchored in this year and place, it does take us back into the past, with black-and-white inserts of the Depression period, the 1940s and 50s, and memories of the Vietnam war, just over. And it does go forward at the end, giving us glimpses of what will happen to the various characters of 1979.

The writer-director is Mike Mills, director of such films as Thumbsucker and Beginners. The film is partly autobiographical, the teenager of the film born in 1964, the director in 1966, sharing a lot of the atmosphere of the times and the influence on their growing up and their teenage years.

However, the central character is Dorothy, played with quite some intensity by Annette Bening, who is now divorced, mother of Jamie, giving birth to him at age 40. She has brought him up. They don’t quite live alone because they have two boarders, Abby (Greta Gerwig), born in 1955, discovering she has cervical cancer, eccentric in her manner but wanting to please. The other boarder is William, Billy Crudup, once a hippy, skilled at mechanics, and a love of making pottery. He is in process of re-doing up the house.

And, while the focus of the film is on Dorothy, it is also on Jamie, played by Lucas Jade Zumann, rather short for his age, sometimes precocious, sometimes not at all, understanding his mother and, more and more, challenging her – Dorothea ever telling him that he has no right to judge her or speak to her like this. He gets on well with Abby and William, accompanying Abby to get her doctor’s report, working with William around the house but not experiencing him as a father-figure.

The other significant figure in all their lives is Julie (Elle Fanning), just a bit older than Jamie, daughter of a psychologist up the street (who insists that her daughter sit in on all the group sessions), who has been quite permissive in her sexual behaviour but does not see Jamie at all in this light, even when he sometimes does, and much prefers to be his friend.

Jamie often remarks that his mother grew up during the Depression and that this explains her. Dorothea reminisces about the events from 1964 to 1979 in the US which were influential on her son’s early years, including the war in Vietnam, the political experiences of the Nixon era. There is a significant scene where the group and some of their friends sit listening to Jimmy Carter deliver a speech about values, identity, anti-consumerism – which Dorothy applauds but which some of the others say signals the end of Carter’s presidency.

Which means then that there is a lot to observe in the life of these characters even if it is Southern Californian, extroverted in its way, reminiscing about pretty music like As Time Goes By yet acknowledging the beat and the raucousness of the about-to-be changes in rock music, lyrics and sound.

There is also a lot to think about, the characters with whom we identify, the characters with whom we don’t identify, the characters, their values, their striving to find meaning in life, the mistakes they make, the values in relationships – and finishing the film by watching glimpses of what their lives were to be after 1979.

 

AFTER THE STORM/ UMI YORI MO MADA FUKAKU

Japan, 2016, 117 minutes, Colour.

Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki.

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda.

This is a quietly serious and humane film that tells a Japanese story which has universal interest and appeal.

Over a number of years, the director, Hirokazu Koreeda, has made several films which have been very moving indeed, including Nobody Knows, Like Father Like Son, Our Little Sister. They are well worth seeing, as is this film, After the Storm.

The director’s themes are from ordinary Japanese life, perhaps best described as middle-class or lower middle class. He is interested in families, in marriage, separation and divorce. He is also interested in the relationship between the generations. And, particularly, in the three films mentioned as with this one, parenting, often between fathers and sons.

The father in this film, Ryoto, has been a successful novelist, winning an award but not progressing in his career. He has married but has not been successful in relating well to his wife whom he loves or being a strong presence in the life of his son. At this stage of his life, he is working as a private detective (with a very enthusiastic young associate). The key problem is that he has a gambling problem, sometimes winning at the velodrome (as we see him here), playing machines, buying lottery tickets, sponging on his young friend – and even deceiving some of his clients to get more money from them.

The other central character in this film is his mother. A widow after 50 years of marriage, never having quite had the life she might have imagined, living in the same apartment for 40 years with very mixed memories of her husband, she has both a son and a daughter. Whenever these two meet, they clash. But Ryoto like to visit his mother, always in search of some money or something that he might pawn (something which is father did a great deal), remembering his abilities as a novelist but unable to make any progress.

His mother is devoted to her children though she sees them fairly objectively. She fusses over them, provides them with meals, enjoys talking with them, walking with them.

Japan has many typhoons and, here, the year has had a record number of them. As the weather changes, and the father takes his son out for the day, lavishing on him money that he does not have (though damaging a pair of cleats so that he can ask for a discount, and also pretending not to be hungry as he takes his son for a burger, and buying him expensive lottery tickets), he decides to take his son to see his grandmother, tell him stories about his own relationship with his father. He invites his ex-wife, who now has someone else in her life who serves as a father-figure for the boy, to come to his mother’s to collect him.

With the oncoming typhoon and the rain, the family stay the night, a joy for the grandmother, an opportunity for some serious sequences where husband and ex-wife reflect on their lives, with the ex-wife talking with her mother-in-law for she has great respect, with the father talking to his son.

With the sun coming out the next day - and the novelist does get a boost from finding one of his father’s more valuable possessions - he walks off into his day without any assurance that life will necessarily be any better – but, as the title suggests, after the storm the sun comes out.

 

ALIEN: COVENANT

US, 2017, 122 minutes, Colour.

Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bechir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Guy Pearce, James Franco.

Directed by Ridley Scott.

Covenant is a word with religious overtones, especially in the understanding of the major world religions of the outreach of their God or gods for a response from humans, God’s/gods’ grace in our lives. This is not quite the understanding of Covenant in the title of this further chapter in the Alien series. However, there are religious implications throughout the film, about creation, about God or, at least playing God, and the consequences. The main character, in fact, can be seen as a Lucifer=figure, defying his creator and creating all kinds of ills and damnation for humans.

This theme is fairly evident right from the beginning with a scene of industrialist, Weyland (Guy Pearce) significant for the episode prior to this film, Prometheus. Weyland authorised the space expedition of Prometheus and created a very sophisticated android, David, created perfection (Michael Fassbender), to accompany the flight and even to control it. The dire consequences were seen in Prometheus.

Alien Covenant takes up the story 10 years later, an expedition already underway, 2000 colonists, embryos, and most of the crew put into a deep sleep for the seven years needed from Earth to their paradise destination. This is the kind of expedition we are getting used to in films such as Passengers, Life, Even Ridley Scott’s former film The Martian. All seems to be going well, under the direction of another android, Walter (also Michael Fassbender), until there is a malfunction and some of the dormant crew are killed by fire – which provides a moment as the captain’s grieving widow, Daniel’s (Katherine Waterston) looks at some footage where we find some moments of the captain in the form of the ubiquitous James Franco.

With some of the crew now awake, authority now falls to Oram (Billie Crudup) challenged by sounds being received, of John Denver’s ‘Country Road’. The overall controlling computer, Mother, indicates a nearby planet which has conditions for living, similar to that of Earth. Daniels registers disapproval but Oram decides that they should land. For some moments, all seems to be well, the discovery of wheat, the discovery of a spacecraft which has crashed. But, this is the Alien series always shows, and we know, that there are monsters lurking, waiting to emerge (often from the interiors of the humans, a tradition since 1979).

When some of the crew are bloodily overcome, the request goes out to the mothership, controlled by Tennessee (Danny McBride), to come to the rescue. However, there is a vast and complex storm over the planet – and whether to come in or not… A further complication is that several of the crew are married couples and reactions are very emotional.

At which stage the android, David, appears, leading the remaining crew to a vast location of the dead where he, not human but android, has survived for ten years, venerating the memory and picture of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace of Prometheus) for ten years after the destruction of the Prometheus. David is pleased to encounter his “brother”, Walter. As was seen in the opening sequence, David is fully conscious of his own self-perfection and begins to talk like Lucifer – and, eventually, to act like Lucifer, ultimately a Satan presuming that he is God.

While there are these philosophical and religious implications, most of the time is spent on the adventure, the ugly and destructive monsters wreaking vengeance, fights and heroics, even David fighting Walter. And then there is the buildup to the Covenant and its escape, with Daniels doing more heroics than even Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley did in the original film, swinging from (over, under, beside) the rescue vehicle, to destroy an intruding creature.

 

UN SAC DE BILLES/ A BAG OF MARBLES

France, 2017, 110 minutes, Colour.

Dorian Le Clech, Batyste Fleurial, Patrick Bruel, Elsa Zylberstein, Bernard Campan, Kevin Adams, Christian Clavier.

Directed by Christian Duguay.

This is a very moving film and can be recommended, not for light entertainment but, rather, for entering into a sad and dangerous period in French history, of being immersed in German-occupied France, of the strains on family and, especially, two young boys who have to make their way from Paris to the Free Zone, to the Mediterranean and Nice, who have to flee Nice and take refuge in a high alpine town until the liberation of France.

The film is based on a true story, on a book written by the younger of the two boys who experience this physical and emotional journey, JoJo, Joseph Joffo. It was published in the mid 1970s and now, 40 years later, there is this moving film version. It has been directed by Christian Duguay, his earlier career was marked by quite a number of action films in France and in the United States but who, more recently, has moved to telling stories about children, Belle and Sebastien, the Journey Continues (also with a World War II setting).

The title is intriguing. As the film opens, the Germans have occupied Paris, 1942, Roman Joffo, the father, manages a barbershop (and some German soldiers are tricked into coming for bairfuts). There are two older brothers who work in the shop. The film opens with the young boys playing marbles in the street and, soon after, when all Jews have to put the yellow star on their clothes with the word Juif, a little boy approaches JoJo, liking the star and its colour and offering to exchange his bag of marbles for the star. Sadly, the bag of marbles is left behind, JoJo clutching one blue marble right throughout the film.

When the older boys go to the Free Zone in Nice, with their parents to follow, the two little boys are sent on alone, Maurice and JoJo, riding btrain, almost discovered by the German soldiers when a kindly priest indicates that they are with him, gets them to eat apples to make this seem more real, and assures them that he didn’t lie to the soldiers and that all children were with him. (Incidentally, priests are presented very sympathetically in this film, another in Nice showing them the way and, when the Gestapo tell Maurice that he has 48 hours to provide baptismal certificates because they are claiming to be Catholics, the parish priest authenticates the documents to the Nazi who does not believe him, even threatening to report him to the Archbishop and then to Rome).

They are resourceful boys, trudging their way through the mountains, getting lifts from sympathetic truck drivers, finally reunited with the family in Nice. But, the Germans are in this Free Zone and the family is once again threatened. Interestingly, the boys find themselves placed in a Catholic institution, a cover for many Jewish children, a bit like a military camp. But, they are caught and, as indicated earlier, interrogated by the Gestapo.

In the later years of the war, they have trekked through the mountains and come to an Alpine town in Haute Savoie where they have local jobs, delivering newspapers, working in a restaurant kitchen, aware of the Resistance, witnessing executions, listening to the anti-Semitic ravings of the book shop owner and his brutal military son.

By this stage of the film, the audience can share the joy and the dancing in the streets with the news of the liberation of Paris and the taking down of the Nazi flag from the local castle.

The two boys portraying Maurice and JoJo are completely convincing. While the story is familiar, this kind of story needs to be told and retold – and, challenging a 21st-century audience to contemplate and ask who are the refugees in the contemporary world and how they can survive.

 

THE CASE FOR CHRIST

US, 2017, 120 minutes, Colour.

Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster, Frankie Faison, L.Scott Caldwell, Brett Rice.

Directed by Jon Gunn.

Since The Passion of the Christ, there has been an American market for faith-based films and they have been quite successful at the American box office. There are some limits on the audiences overseas, although there are many evangelical, Pentecostal, community churches beyond the US which supply a niche audience for this kind of film.

The Case for Christ is more interesting than many of the others, the central character being an investigative journalist and the film showing his pursuit of a police case, a frame up, his believing the police evidence and then challenging it. This is intercut throughout the whole film which is based on the atheism to faith journey of award-winning Chicago Herald Tribune journalist, Lee Strobel. The action takes place during the 1980s.

It is also a family story which makes it more appealing to the average audience, the marriage of Lee (Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (Erika Christensen), their daughter Alison, Leslie’s pregnancy. Emotions are affected early in the film when Alison suddenly chokes in a restaurant – and her life is saved by a nurse, Alfie (L.Scott Caldwell), who had changed her mind about where she was going to eat and come to this restaurant. She uses Jesus language and talks about Providence so that Leslie, grateful, is challenged to think about her childhood churchgoing, prayer and faith. Lee rejects any kind of transcendent intervention.

Leslie becomes more and more involved in reflection on faith and prayer, brings a gift to Alfie at her hospital, is persuaded to go to the Community Church for a service, decides to go back. The main difficulties is in telling Lee who is angry at his wife’s decision, saying that he wanted his wife back. In a moment of concession, he does go to church with Leslie and Alison but confronts Alfie and warns her off. When Leslie experiences a baptism of immersion, Lee observes from a distance but then leaves and angrily drinks.

A complication is that Lee is alienate it from his father, Robert Forster, which means that this experience of his father serves as a model for his imagining God whom he rejects. It is only when his father dies and he attends the funeral that he discovers his father’s wallet with the article about Lee’s career and a whole album containing articles by him. His also challenged by psychologist (Faye Dunaway), an agnostic who picks that is anger against God is due to his relationship with his father.

While he is investigating the police case, he asks questions about belief in Christ, focusing on the resurrection. Taking the resurrection as the key issue, he sets up an office with a white board, tacking up notes with his questions and his investigations. He goes to a number of experts, religious ministers with faith, the Catholic scholar, Father Marquez, who was an archaeologist but gave it up for priesthood and explains to him textual criticism, the antiquity of texts, the many fragments from the Gospels, the psychologist with whom he discusses mass hysteria, a doctor who is able to explain and analyse the effects of the scourging, the carrying of the cross, the physiology of crucifixion and the piercing of Jesus’ side.

Meanwhile at the office, he is supported by a friendly father-figure journalist who urges him to support his wife no matter what he feels, and is challenged by another journalist who reminds him that he sees only what he wants to see and refuses to see anything else.

Ultimately, all the evidence, the core experience of disciples seeing the risen Christ no matter what the differences in detail in the narratives, persuades him and leads him to faith. His particular kind of faith, based on facts, investigation, experts, is a very rational faith. This is by way of contrast with his wife’s profound experience, the saving of her daughter’s life, the community experience of church, the witness of a friend.

Since the 1980s, Lee Strobel has been a minister at Community Churches and has written a great number of books including cases for faith, grace, hope…

 

CHURCHILL

UK, 2017, 98 minutes, Colour.

Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, Julian Waterman, Ella Purnell, James Purefoy, Richard Durden.

Directed by Jonathan Teplitsky.

Over the decades there have been many films about Winston Churchill. In many polls, especially at the beginning of the 21st century, Churchill was the number one choice for voters for the most significant Briton who ever lived.

In the 1970s, there was Young Winston. In more recent times Albert Finney has played Churchill in The Gathering Storm, Churchill in the 1930s. This was followed by Brendan Gleeson, Into the Storm, going into the war period. Michael Gambon also played Churchill in Churchill’s Secret, focusing on his political ambitions in the mid 1950s. Now it is the turn of Brian Cox – who, perhaps, looks more like Churchill himself, facially, size, stoop and walking, anger and arrogance…

The timespan for this film is June 1944, the four days before D-Day, 6 June and the Normandy landing. This is indicated in captions as the time of the invasion gets closer.

Significantly, Churchill is first seen walking along the beach, remembering his action in World War I, the disappointments that he experienced with the failure of the landing at Gallipoli, his sense of guilt – looking at the waves coming into the beach, and their being blood red as he remembered the number of men killed. He has similar apprehensions about the death toll in the forthcoming landing, Operation Overlord.

While the film shows Churchill’s activities in some detail, his work in the war room, those assisting him, his moody outbursts critical of his secretaries, his continued drinking, his tiredness, even his rather haughty prayer on his knees asking God to send bad weather so that the invasion would not take place.

In all the films about Churchill, his wife Clementine, is most significant. Here she is played by Miranda Richardson. Their marriage was long, Clemmie able to support her husband in his down years as well is in his successes but, at this stage of the war, when he was being so crabby, she talks strongly to a number of times, appealing to his commonsense, urging him not to be a warrior but a statesman who would leave the country in the war effort and moved towards peace. This means that there are some dramatic moments, outside the war, where the tensions between husband and wife are interestingly dramatised.

Very important other sequences where Churchill goes to meetings in the country, for security, to discuss the invasion with General Eisenhower (John Slattery) and General Montgomery (Julian Wadham). Churchill is fiercely against the invasion of France and the potential loss of life, makes no bones about confronting the military chiefs, with some attempts by his assistant, Field Marshal Smuts, whom he has known from Boer War, for reason, calm and respect.

It is interesting to watch, as Churchill did, the final meetings to decide when the invasion should begin, with experts, of the weather and its difficulties, cloud cover and the possibility for aerial support and other strategies.

A human touch is introduced with one of Churchill secretaries, Ella Pernell, who be choose up but, can’t buy his wife, and responding to the secretaries outburst in his pessimistic speechmaking, finds that she has fiancee one of the boats – and he makes an effort to find out whether fiancee is and how he fared in the landing and his safety of the beaches.

There is a fine scene with James Purefoy as George VI discussing their presence at D-Day.

There will be many more films about Winston Churchill. The value of this film is to appreciate how important was his leadership during the blitz and the Battle of Britain, and how, with some pig headedness, he might have had a derogatory effect on the Normandy landings which eventually lead to the ending of the war.

Direction is by JonathanTeplitsky, Australian director who made Getting Square and the fine reflection on the Japanese war and prisoners of war, The Railway Man.

 

A DOG’S PURPOSE

US, 2017, 100 minutes, Colour.

Josh Gad, Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton, Bryce Gheisar, K.J. Apa, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Gabrielle Rose, Michael Bofshver, Britt Robertson, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, John Ortiz.

Directed by Lasse Halstrom.

Most humans know the purpose of the dog, our best friend. However, this film offers the opportunity to hear the nature of the canine purpose from the dog’s own mouth. He is Bailey, voiced by comedian Josh Gad, who narrates the whole film, has a doggy approach to life, frequently asking about the purpose of life but taking refuge even more frequently in considerations of having fun and eating.

Since there are millions of humans around the globe who are dog-lovers, there is a strong target audience for this canine autobiography. Those who are not dog lovers or those who are rather indifferent to dogs might not be so enchanted, perhaps thinking and feeling that it is all a bit silly.

The film is based on novels by W Bruce Cameron which have proven very popular.

One of the presuppositions of Cameron’s dog lives is reincarnation. A touch of reincarnation since the director, Lasse Halstrom, made an impact in the 1980s with his My Life as a Dog.

A Dog is Born but is soon, after nursing and nestling, taken by the dog-catchers. And then the first of a number of rebirths, this time as Bailey, found by a young boy, Ethan, who is allowed to keep the dog by his parents. Bailey tells us this is all wonderful, has commentary on the family life, his reactions to Ethan, the adults, games and play, fetching balls, enjoying his food, perfecting a trick whereby an old football is tossed in the air, Bailey leaps over Ethan’s back and catches the ball in his mouth (a rather crucial fact for the ending of the film).

Then Ethan becomes a teenager, teased about his love for Bailey. But Ethan is a top football player, encounters a young girl at a fair, Hannah, and is smitten, the couple enjoying each other’s company during the summer, and including Bailey in all the activities.

But all is not well, Ethan’s father drinks and is abusive, leaves. And a jealous boy from school has a prank with a firecracker which leads to the burning down of the house, some heroics from Bailey, and a disastrous accident for Ethan, some wallowing in self-pity which includes ousting Hannah from his life. For those not in the know about reincarnation, this happens surprisingly halfway through the film as Bailey pines and dies.

The next thing, birth, and his next incarnation as female, Elle, working for Hispanic Carlos, a widower, on the Chicago police force, training Elle as a sniffer dog – at which she excels. There is a crisis when a thug abducts a young girl, the action on a vast water flow and filter, the girl in the water, Elle rescuing her. And just as were settling into that story, death again, birth again.

This time Bailey makes the acquaintance of Maya, a student at college, rather quiet in herself, not comfortable in being invited to study meetings, staying at home reading with her dog who seems to read her mind as to what they will eat, pizza being a pleasant choice. When Bailey in his new incarnation tangles amorously in the park with a rather bigger dog, Roxy, he finds that Roxy belongs to the young man who offered Maya, the invitation to the group. Happy together, couple and dogs, wedding, children, family. And just as we were settling into this story, death again, birth again.

This time Bailey, remembering everything and telling us so, is taken up by young woman who lives in a trashy neighbourhood and a trashy house, her partner eventually abandoning the dog. And where does he find himself, but back in Michigan, one day scenting the adult Hannah, realising he is back in Ethan’s territory, and tracks him down (Dennis Quaid). This time he is called Buddy but he rejoices, so he tells us, in being with Ethan again, in running away and having Hannah bring him back home, in bringing the two together – but the only thing is for Ethan to recognise that he is Bailey (and that is where that trick, mentioned earlier, does the trick).

Were Bailey to mention a rating for this film, he would probably suggest five woofs out of five.

 

DON’T TELL  

Australia, 2017, 110 minutes, Colour.

Jack Thompson, Aden Young, Sarah West, Rachel Griffiths, Jacqueline McKenzie, Susie Porter, Gyton Grantley, Robert Taylor, Martin Sacks, Robert Coleby, Kiara Freeman, Ashlee Lollback.

Directed by Tori Garrett.

This is a significant film, and important Australian film. It should be seen by all Australians.

The subject, which is most disturbing but which has become part of our lives, part of our consciousness, is institutional sexual abuse. The survivor of the abuse here is a young girl. So many of the stories, especially those from the Royal Commission, are of the abuse of boys, are fewer about girls. So many of the witnesses to the Royal Commission told stories of institutional church abuse. While Catholic stories have been told in the Oscar-winning Spotlight and the television miniseries Devil’s Playground (for thousand and 14), the church in the spotlight here is the Anglican church, the church in Queensland.

The specific setting is in the Queensland city of Toowoomba. The school is the Anglican School for girls, Toowoomba Prep. The time is 1990. There is a civil trial which is at the core of this film which took place in 2001.

The film has been sensitively directed by Tori Garrett. The central character of the film is Lyndal, abused when she was 11 in 1990, at the centre of the case in 2001. She is played extraordinarily persuasive solely by Sarah West, an angry young woman whose life has been severely damaged, whose emotional growth was stunted, educational opportunities lost, experiences of running away from home, alcohol and drug addiction, and the carrying of the burden of her secret.

The screenplay is based on the book by Lyndal’s solicitor, Stephen Roche, he played so well by Aden Young, the Toowoomba lawyer, with a family, a daughter the same age as Lyndal when she was abused. The film opens with his handling the case of a victim, not a survivor because she hangs herself during the proceedings, placing a burden on Roche, emotionally and, of concern to his wife, financially.

Lyndal is having therapy from a counsellor, Joy Connolly, played by Rachel Griffiths. They approach Stephen Roche – but, in the mentality of the time, especially for churches, the expectation is of a financial settlement with confidentiality clauses. Lyndal rejects this and, despite the wariness of the chief barrister, Bob Myers (Jack Thompson at his best), a civil hearing goes ahead in Toowoomba with a very strong-minded lawyer, Jean Dalton (Jacqueline McKenzie at her best) defending the church’s interests, sharing with Stephen Roche the cross examination of a range of witnesses, school staff, Joy Connolly, the previous principal.

The film reminds audiences that in 1990, for most Australians, this kind of abuse was unthinkable. There is a lot of talk about the child and imagination, making up stories… Parents are reluctant to believe the stories or, if they do, very reluctant for them to be made public, especially in court.

Audiences may remember the 2003 resignation of Archbishop Peter Hollingworth as Governor General of Australia. Some of the reasons for his resignation include his handling of this case when he was Archbishop of Brisbane. He is seen opening a new wing at the school, the emphasis on Toowoomba Prep is a Christian school with Christian values. But there are also sequences, parallel with many meetings that have gone on over the decades with school boards, church councils of all denominations, discussing limits of financial payments, a wariness of going to court, discussing protecting the reputation of school and church and individuals, many defending the abuser as a person of good character and reliable work in the school.

One of the key factors in this case is that the abuser, Kevin Guy, committed suicide, leaving a suicide note naming number of girls. Eventually, the church admitted Kevin Guy’s guilt (and so his suicide note was deemed inadmissible).

At times audiences will find it difficult to identify with Lyndal, her anger, her sullen behaviour, trying to understand and appreciate it. With the flashbacks, which dramatises what Lyndal is remembering during the hearings, and the telling of her story, the audience will come to appreciate much better experience as a little girl (Kiara Freeman), damaged girl and the consequences. At some moments, the flashback memories are very disturbing. But, this is the kind of narrative drama that really brings home some of the realities of the abuse experience.

There have been many newspaper reports and articles, radio interviews, television coverage and interviews, items on social media, but the power of the theatrical and cinema drama can enable an audience to be drawn into the story, to empathise with the characters, to feel appreciate their experiences.

The end of the film has, statements about the characters we have seen and Lyndal’s subsequent history, there is also the terrible reminder that abusers threaten impressionable children that they are not to tell anyone, that this is their secret, or that if they do reveal it, something terrible will final caption happen  before the credits says to the survivor: Don’t Listen.

 

FUOCOAMMARE/ FIRE AT SEA

Italy, 2016, 106 minutes, Colour.
Samuele Caruana, Maria Costa.
Directed by Gianfranco Rosi.

This film is billed as a documentary, and so it is, but with its focus on a family, especially young 12-year-old boy, Samuele, who really becomes the centre of the film, it works not just as a documentary but also as a kind of fiction feature. It is directed by Gianfranco Rosi, whose documentary on the road surrounding the city of Rome, Sacro GRA, won the golden lion in Venice in 2013. That was a particularly local film, the customs of the area in different lives of characters on the ring road.

For this film, Rosi the lived for several months on the island of Lampedusa, an island which has become more famous in recent years, not far of the Sicilian coast, not far from the Libyan coast, an island where so many boats, so many rickety boats, crammed with refugees, have landed – unless the boats have sunk with lives lost, a frightening statistic that is given at the beginning of the film.

While the issue of refugees from Africa and, by extension and ultimate explicit mention, from Syria and Middle Eastern countries, there are explicit reference to Islamic State.

But, the film is something of a jigsaw puzzle, the scenes of the refugees punctuating the narrative about life on Lampedusa, especially for the young boy, Samuele Caruana, and his family.

Samuele is an enterprising young 12-year-old, seen chopping branches in order to make a slingshot, aiming at birds, instructing his good friend how to make a slingshot and fire it – and the two of them frequently mimicking shooting with machine guns. We see them at school, testing out the meanings of words in English and Italian. We see Samuele going to the doctor, being tested for his eyes, discovering he has a lazy eye and will have to wear a patch to strengthen it, which he tests out in various slingshots.

His father is a fishermen and Samuele goes out on a boat only to find that he becomes seasick and is advised to go onto the jetty to get used to having a balance and controlling his stomach. He also has a lesson in rowing, which he desperately needs, otherwise he would be trapped between boats. He is a strong screen presence and audiences welcome him, with scenes at home, meals where he incessantly slurps his spaghetti, talking with his father and cared for by his grandmother.

Actually, the grandmother has significance in the film, cooking, cleaning, making the beds – and ringing the rather friendly DJ on the local radio with requests for songs and commemorations to be made.

But, back to the refugees, the pictures of the boats, the picture of the Italian navy and its efforts to find the refugees, sometimes there being unable to give their coordinates with the inevitability of drownings and death. The Italians seem to be doing their efficient best. Exhausted and dehydrated men are lifted off the boats, some of them not surviving. And there are some telling interviews with Africans, especially from Nigeria, making their way to Sudan, through the desert, arriving in Libya, possibly imprisonment there, and the desperation to get on a boat to Europe.

So, this is a strong humanitarian film, destined to win Human Rights awards. There was a rather similar film from Malta in 2015, Simshar, with both films reminding audiences of the contemporary issues of African refugees, death by drowning – but without the answers as to what will become of them.

Interestingly, with the visit of Pope Francis to Lampedusa and gaining world coverage, there is no reference to this in the film and no explicit presence of the Catholic Church (as there is in Censure).

Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin are they, 2016, as well as winning the Ecumenical Award and a prize from Amnesty International.

 

GET OUT

US, 2017, 104 minutes, Colour.

Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, LilRel Howery.

Directed by Jordan Peele.

Get Out has been one of the surprise hits of 2017. It has been promoted as a horror film, there are certainly those aspects, but it is more than that.

The film is the work of Jordan Peele, best known as a comic actor and writer with his television partner, Keegan-Michael Key the Key and Peele series. They appeared together in a film they wrote in 2016, the cat film Keanu, with its parody of gangster films and American thugs, Hispanic thugs, and everyone’s love for cats! This film is quite different, written by Peele but he does not appear in it.

The film opens with themes about racism, a young couple discussing a potential visit to her parents, he being African-American, she being white. She says she has not warned her parents but that they are very open and understanding. He, Chris, is a genial young man, a professional photographer, played by Daniel Collier. She, Rose, is attractive and agreeable, played by Allison Williams.

On the way to her parents’ home, Rose driving, they suddenly hit a deer and encounter a touch of racism in the police officer’s demand to see Chris’s license even though he was not driving. Rose stares him out, revealing some fierceness in her character.. Later, with a stag’s head on the wall, Rose’s father, Dean (Bradley Whitford) declaims that the deer are a pest and this contribution to culling is something most welcome. Even later, the meaning of this proclamation seems much more sinister as does some action with the stag’s head.

Everything is agreeable, a luxury mansion, a groundskeeper (with a suspiciously vacant look), and maid (with a cross eyed smile). Dean has a medical background and his wife, Missy (Catherine Keener) is a psychologist who believes in hypnosis – and makes an offer because Chris is trying to give up smoking. Lots of conversation, a tour of the house, Chris unable to sleep and going downstairs for a smoke, the groundskeeper hurriedly jogging towards him, Missy still awake and offering to hypnotise him, he unwilling, but she stirring her tea and knocking the teaspoon against the cup. He wakes up in bed feeling that he has experienced a nightmare, falling into a vast sunken space.

The next day the family has a reunion, friends and neighbours all gathering to have drinks and refreshments on the lawn. They are all elderly, all white – though one woman has an African-American in tow (who also has a strange look in his eyes).There is also a blind curator of a photography museum (Stephen Root) who is praising of Chris and his work.

If one were looking for cinema antecedents for this film one might say that it was a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner meets Stepford and discovers Ghosts in the Shell.

 

To discover what that actually means, it is best to see the film, the psychological twists, the race issues, and, especially, a critique of complacent affluent white American citizens and their presumptions, and the heritage of racism and slavery.

And, for those who go to see Get Out because of its reputation, they will finally be satisfied as Chris fights to assert himself. Some anticipated blood and gore.

Actually, he has the friendship of a rather comic character, an officer in the terrorist police team, who is minding the house for Chris, but gets alarmed about the African-American man seen at the party, elaborates a hypothesis to the police who laugh him out of the room, but uses his skills at detecting to…

Get Out does what it intends, psychology, race issues, comic touches, horror themes, and does them very well.