September (Peter Carstairs, 2007) wr. Peter Carstairs, Ant Horn, Tropfest backed, prod. Jon Polson, dp Jules O'Loughlin, music Roger Mason; Xavier Samuel, Clarence John Ryan, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Kelton Pell, Alec McConnell, Lisa Flanagan, Mia Wasikowska, Sibylla Budd, Anton Tennett, Paul Gleeson, Tara Morice, Morgan Griffin, Bob Baines, Tom E. Lewis; friendship between two 15-yr-old boys - one white, one black - in wheatbelt late 1960s; shot on location Harden NSW; Australian release 25 October
A flashback to one of Australia's racist blind spots awkwardly ducks and weaves before landing a killer punch in the warmly expressed Oz meller September. Feature bow by Peter Carstairs shows signs of his transition from shorts, but is elevated by a sincere script that's successful despite many technical obstacles. Pic unspooled in Toronto's Discovery sidebar and should make room on its calendar for more fest slots. October release in Oz will garner modest arthouse B.O.
Set in 1968 rural Western Australia, just after indigenous Aussies were given citizenship rights in their own country, pic tells the story of the friendship between privileged white farm boy Ed (Xavier Samuel) and unschooled but smart Aboriginal teen Paddy (Clarence John Ryan). The boys set up a makeshift boxing ring and amiably spar, but the country town's racial tensions raise the stakes and mutual antagonism. Perfs are flat, though Ryan exhibits a photogenic charm. Helming is often pointlessly decorative, and undisciplined handheld lensing is irritating. However, script skillfully draws together its disparate elements and is powerful enough to transcend the film's considerable limitations. Other tech credits are solid. Russell Edwards, Variety.
The screenplay is a study of two teenagers on the edge of social and personal change, with a racial edge. Australian Rules did it somewhat better, I think. It was economical and dramatic. This slow, meditative film feels as though it's a piece of prose that would have made a more complete short film, say a TV hour or so. It lacks the dynamics to make it engaging, and its lyricism isn't enough to compensate.
Xavier Samuel and Clarence John Ryan are excellent, though, youngsters whose inner lives, their deepest emotions, are repressed and hidden to a large extent from the outside world, even though they can each sense the other's joys and hurts. Indeed, all the cast delivers wonderfully nuanced performances, even in the smallest support roles. The flaws come from the screenplay and direction. Other than respectful festival audiences, I can't imagine who the film is made for. Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile.
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