Australasian Cinema > awards > AACTAs 2019. See also: 2019 releases in date order.

AACTAs 2019: Feature Films in Competition

Nominees for Best Film

The six movies nominated for Best Film (announced 23 October 2019) are: Hotel Mumbai, Judy & Punch, The King, The Nightingale, Ride Like A Girl, and Top End Wedding.

Hotel Mumbai

Hotel Mumbai (Anthony Maras, 2018) prod. Basil Iwanyk, Gary Hamilton, Mike Gabrawy, Julie Ryan, Andrew Ogilvie, Jomon Thomas, for Hotel Mumbai Double Guess Productions; Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Tilda Cobham-Hervey; dramatisation of 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks on Taj Mahal Hotel

The true story of the Taj Hotel terrorist attack in Mumbai. Hotel staff risk their lives to keep everyone safe as people make unthinkable sacrifices to protect themselves and their families.

The shootings in Christchurch, Friday 15 March 2019, would have had a negative effect on the box office, which was, nevertheless, AU$3.3mill.


judyandpunch

Judy and Punch

Judy and Punch (Mirrah Foulkes, 2019) wr. Mirrah Foulkes, prod. Michele Bennett, Nash Edgerton, Danny Gabai, for Vice Media LLC, Blue-Tongue Films, Pariah Productions; Damon Herriman, Mia Wasikowska, Benedict Hardie, Terry Norris; drama; released 21 November

In Seaside (which is nowhere near the sea) puppeteers Judy and Punch are trying to resurrect their marionette show in an anarchic town on the brink of mob rule. The show is a hit due to Judy’s superior puppeteering, but Punch’s driving ambition and penchant for whisky lead to an inevitable tragedy that Judy must avenge. When Punch accidentally kills his baby during a drinking binge, his wife Judy - having suffered a violent beating - teams up with a band of outcast heretics to enact revenge on Punch and the entire town of Seaside.

There’s a danger in this kind of exercise, especially when you’re dealing with comedy. Charles Dickens once summed up Punch and Judy as “an outrageous joke which no one in existence would think of regarding as an incentive to any kind of action or a model for any kind of conduct”. And he was probably right. Any taint of earnestness would have killed this film, as Foulkes is clearly aware. As a result, she’s cannily approached it in the spirit with which it was meant. She’s successfully matched its urge to amuse and outrage with her own. Sandra Hall, SMH.


the king

The King

The King (David Michôd, 2019) wr. Joel Edgerton, David Michôd, prod. Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Liz Watts, David Michôd, Joel Edgerton, for Plan B Entertainment, Porchlight Films, A Yoki Inc, Blue-Tongue Films; Robert Pattinson, Timothée Chalamet, Lily-Rose Depp

Hal, wayward prince and heir to the English throne, is crowned King Henry V after his tyrannical father dies. Now the young king must navigate palace politics, the war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life - including his relationship with his closest friend and mentor, the aging alcoholic knight, John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton).


nightingale

The Nightingale

Nightingale, The (Jennifer Kent, 2018) wr. Jennifer Kent, prod. Kristina Ceyton, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky, Jennifer Kent, for Causeway Films, Made Up Stories; Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood; drama set Tasmania 1829; screened VeniceFF 6Sept18, AdelaideFF 13Oct18, and SydneyFF 9 Jun19; released 29Aug19

Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.


ridelikeagirl

Ride Like a Girl

Ride Like a Girl (Rachel Griffiths, 2019) wr. Andrew Knight, Elise McCredie, prod. Richard Keddie, Rachel Griffiths, Susie Montague, for The Film Company, Magdalene Media, dp Martin McGrath; Teresa Palmer, Sam Neill, Sullivan Stapleton; Michelle Payne biopic

Michelle Payne rode Prince of Penzance to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015.

The film topped the Australian box office on its opening weekend (end September) taking $1.7m for the weekend, with a cumulative total of $2.4m. IF mag.


topendwedding

Top End Wedding

Top End Wedding (Wayne Blair, 2019) wr. Miranda Tapsell, Joshua Tyler, prod. Rosemary Blight, Kylie du Fresne, Kate Croser, for Goalpost Pictures; Gwilym Lee, Miranda Tapsell, Kerry Fox, Huw Higginson, Shari Sebbens, Ursula Yovich; comedy; released 2 May

Lauren and Ned are engaged, and they have just ten days to reunite her parents for their dream wedding - which actually takes place on locaton in Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island - so it's really Wurrumiyanga Wedding.

The first hour of Top End Wedding can be downright annoying in its simplicity and bad screenwriting, reminding me more of the kind of multiplex rom-coms that currently star people like Jennifer Lopez. Then it hit me. Most of this movie is just prologue to what really matters to Blair and Tapsell and that’s the arrival in a part of the world we haven’t really seen in a Sundance film before. There’s a genuine respect for the people of the Tiwi Islands that’s effective and even moving, and Top End Wedding really becomes a different film altogether when Lauren gets there—although even then Blair can’t avoid an airport revelation and other cheesy rom-com clichés. The Sundance description for Top End Wedding ends with “... making you wonder why you’ve stayed away for so long.” I too wondered why this movie stayed away from what works about it for as long as it does. James Tallerica, Roger Ebert.



Films in competition

The 34 feature films in competition were: Acute Misfortune, Angel Of Mine, Animals, Bilched, Book Week, Buoyancy, Celeste, Chocolate Oyster, The Combination: Redemption, Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan, Emu Runner, Escape And Evasion, Hearts And Bones, Hotel Mumbai, I Am Mother, Judy & Punch, Juvenile Delinquents, The King, Locusts, The Naked Wanderer, Nekrotronic, The Nightingale, Outback, Palm Beach, Pimped, Promised, Reflections In The Dust, Ride Like A Girl, Sequin In A Blue Room, Slam, Storm Boy, Suburban Wildlife, Top End Wedding, and Undertow.


acute

Acute Misfortune

Acute Misfortune (Thomas M. Wright, 2018) wr. Erik Jensen, Thomas M. Wright; Daniel Henshall, Toby Wallace, Gillian Jones, Geneviève Lemon

The film adaptation of Erik Jensen's award-winning biography of Adam Cullen is the story of the biographer and his subject, as it descends into a dependent and abusive relationship.

Does Australia celebrate the wrong kind of people, and the wrong kind of art? This question bounced around my mind for days after watching Acute Misfortune – a beautifully made and intensely thoughtful portrait of the life of controversial Archibald-winning painter Adam Cullen, based on the journalist and Saturday Paper editor Erik Jensen’s wild and compelling book of the same name. Luke Buckmaster, The Guardian.


angelofmine

Angel of Mine

Angel of Mine (Kim Farrant, 2019) wr. Luke Davies, David Regal, prod. Su Armstrong, Brian Etting, Josh Etting, dp Andrew Commis; Yvonne Strahovski, Luke Evans, Noomi Rapace; psych thriller; released 5Sept2019

A woman grieving over the death of her daughter loses grip of reality when she begins to think her girl may still be alive.

Noomi Rapace stars in Angel of Mine as Lizzie, an ex-wife and distant mother who seems to be fading away. She shares custody of her preteen son Thomas (Finn Little) with Mike (Luke Evans), and in the movie’s opening exchange scene, Mike tells her, “He can feel your darkness.” Her life hasn’t been the same since a loss seven years ago, which has affected every part of her: she can’t move on from her relationship by dating, and she constantly blows off her job at a cosmetics store. Lizzie is speeding through a downward spiral, and this film from director Kim Farrant wants us to sit with this character study, before placing it in a parent's nightmare. Nick Allen, Roger Ebert.


animals

Animals

Animals (Sophie Hyde, 2019) wr. Emma Jane Unsworth, from her novel; prod. Rebecca Summerton, Sophie Hyde, Sarah Brocklehurst; Holliday Grainger, Alia Shawkat, Fra Fee, Dermot Murphy, Amy Molloy; dramedy; Adelaide FF 5Apr, Sydney FF 8Jun; released 12Sept

After a decade of partying, Laura and Tyler's friendship is strained when Laura falls in love. But what is really stopping her from fulfilling her dreams?

Adapted by Emma Jane Unsworth from her own 2014 novel, Sophie Hyde’s generous, freewheeling film is a pleasingly disorderly addition to the still-underpopulated ranks of female friendship studies — eschewing both strict moral judgment and greeting-card sentimentality in its portrayal of two women with a firmer idea of what they don’t want in life than what they do. Played with fizzing yin-and-yang chemistry by Holliday Grainger and Alia Shawkat, they’re a welcome corrective to the more superficially subversive female leads of comedies like Trainwreck, whose external damage mask surprisingly conservative aspirations; heterosexual romance is an option, not a destination, in a film that sees the wine glass as half-full and half-empty by turns. Guy Lodge, Variety.


bilched

Bilched

Bilched (Jeremy Cumpston, 2019) wr. Hal Cumpston; Hal Cumpston, Frederick Du Rietz, Mitzi Ruhlmann; filmed Tamarama; released 23 May

Enter Hal's world of Sydney's Eastern Suburbs where 20 years of insane increases in property prices has realized a weirdly dichotomous socio-economic melting pot. Here, amidst the pristine beaches, parks and gullies of Bondi, Tama, Bronte, Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra live the exceptionally rich yuppie newcomers, often nestled next door to the original "old school" low to middle class "tradie" community. The rivalry, tensions and humour that spring from the glaringly obvious differences between the haves and have nots only serves to increase the pressure of the life choices these young men and women have to make - choose the path in life that guarantees them a "place at the table", or follow your heart and chase your dreams. The audience will be bustled along a wild ride with our sleepy anti-hero Hal's final days of year 12, where the normally studious and responsible elder sibling of a one parent family has been granted the chance to finally let his hair down. Suddenly (and unexpectedly) Hal is also faced with the opportunity to chase his dreams by auditioning at the age of only 17 for the prestigious National Academy of Performing Arts.


bookweek

Book Week

Book Week (Heath Davis, 2019) wr. Heath Davis; Jolene Anderson, Toby Schmitz, Susan Prior

A jaded high school English teacher is forced to re-evaluate his life when his novel is passed over for one of his students.

Wittily scripted, sharply characterised, and smartly performed (Rose Riley, Pippa Grandison, Steve Le Marquand, Rhys Muldoon, Tiriel Mora, Maya Stange, Nicholas Hope and Jolene Anderson all do great work in small roles), Book Week is a little gem of a film. It not only celebrates the joy of reading (and learning), but also the ability of people to change for the better. You always get the feeling that there’s a better man beneath Nick Cutler’s sour exterior, and Alan Dukes ingeniously reveals his character’s true self slowly and authentically as the film unspools. It’s a lovely portrait piece, and Book Week is nothing short of a cinematic page-turner. Erin Free, FilmInk.


buoyancy

Buoyancy

Buoyancy (Rodd Rathjen, 2019) wr. Rodd Rathjen, prod. Samantha Jennings, Kristina Ceyton; Sarm Heng, Thanawut Karso, Mony Ros; slavery drama; premiere Berlin 8Feb; released 26Sept2019

14-year-old Chakra is sold as a slave labourer to the captain of a Thai fishing vessel. The captain's rule on board is cruel and arbitrary.

This elegant debut feature by Australian writer-director Rodd Rathjen is at once harrowing and briskly entertaining. Inspired by appalling true accounts of modern slavery in Southeast Asia, Buoyancy tells the story of Chakra (Sarm Heng), a headstrong 14-year-old sick of his modest, mundane existence in rural Cambodia. After an explosive confrontation with his stern father, he makes hasty plans to cross the border into Thailand, in the hope of securing a well-paid factory job. But the boy is promptly swindled by a merciless broker, thrust aboard a decrepit fishing trawler, and forced into backbreaking labour by a gleefully sadistic captain, Rom Ran (Thanawut Kasro). Paul O'Callaghan, Sight&Sound.


celeste

Celeste

Celeste (Ben Hackworth, 2018) Radha Mitchell, Thomas Cocquerel, Nadine Garner, Odessa Young, Emm Wiseman; music drama

Celeste is a love story set in the tropical splendor of far north Queensland. It is a story of a family falling apart coming together again and their last chance to keep a decaying world alive. Celeste is a renowned opera diva who retired early for the man she loved to live on a crumbling and beautiful estate in the heart of a rainforest in Far North Queensland. Ten years after the tragic death of her husband Celeste is set to return to the stage for her final performance. Her stepson Jack, still haunted by the past, arrives amidst the preparations for the performance and finds Celeste is as he remembered. Celeste wants Jack to stay at the estate, but needs him to perform one last request. Celeste is set in a bohemian world of opera and showcases a stunning and unseen part of the world.


Chocolate Oyster

Chocolate Oyster

Chocolate Oyster (Steve Jaggi, 2018) wr. Steve Jaggi; Rosie Lourde, Anna Lawrence, Aaron Glenane

Chocolate Oyster follows twenty-somethings Ellie (Anna Lawrence) and Taylor (Rosie Lourde), who live in Bondi apartments they can't really afford, and pursue their dreams in a city that seems intent on thwarting them. Taylor chases a dance career by day and works as a waitress at night, while supporting her new boyfriend Henry (Ryan Harrison), an aspiring playwright. Tired of being with a dependent and juvenile boyfriend, Ellie ends her relationship and begins to see Craig (Aaron Glenane), a chef who dreams of creating a signature dish that will make his name. With the story work shopped between actors and director, and a great deal of improvisation, the monochrome Chocolate Oyster has a breezy quality that reflects both the beauty and difficulty of life in Sydney.


combination:redemption

The Combination: Redemption

Combination: Redemption, The (David Field, 2019) wr. George Basha; Rahel Romahn, George Basha, Simon Elrahi, Neveen Hanna, George Papura, Troy Honeysett, Johnny Nasser, Brendan Donoghue, Tony Ryan; Lebanese culture in Sydney

Six years on and John is still haunted by the death of his younger brother. The choices he faces will push him to the edge like never before.

John Morkos (George Basha) is haunted by the events that led to the death of his brother. As John begins to rebuild his life, he finds solace in the boxing ring at his local gymnasium. Meanwhile, tensions are building on the streets of western Sydney, as a ruthless new crime boss Nas (Johnny Nasser) seeks to expand his empire, and the formation of a radical group of white supremacists threatens to shatter the social fabric of the local community. When the gym becomes a focal point of these gathering forces, and the threat to the community begins to escalate, John must come to terms with his past, make the right choices, and take a stand against overwhelming odds. Sometimes you've got to fight for what's right.


dangerclose

Danger Close

Danger Close: the Battle of Long Tan (Kriv Stenders, 2019) wr. Paul Sullivan, Karel Segers, Jack Brislee, James Nicholas; Travis Fimmel, Richard Roxburgh, Nicholas Hamilton; Vietnam War

Late afternoon August 18, 1966 South Vietnam - for three and a half hours, in the pouring rain, amid the mud and shattered trees of a rubber plantation called Long Tan, Major Harry Smith and his dispersed company of 108 young and mostly inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers are fighting for their lives, holding off an overwhelming enemy force of 2,500 battle hardened Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. With their ammunition running out, their casualties mounting and the enemy massing for a final assault each man begins to search for his own answer - and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honour, decency and courage.


emu runner

Emu Runner

Emu Runner (Imogen Thomas, 2018) wr. Imogen Thomas; Rhae-Kye Waites, Stella Carter, Mary Waites; TorontoIFF 7Sep18, AdelaideFF 14Oct18; released 7Sept2019

Emu Runner is a lyrical story about the impact a mother's death has on an Aboriginal family living in an isolated community, which is perched on an ancient river and surrounded by sprawling plains. The story is seen through the eyes of Gem, a spirited eight-year-old girl, who deals with the grief of her mother's death by forging a bond with a wild emu, a mythical bird of her ancestors. This spiritual dreaming is a bond she will do anything to keep, but one that puts her at odds with the new social worker.

Writer-director Imogen Thomas’s debut feature Emu Runner has and probably will play in designated family-themed strands of film festivals, and given its story of a 9-year-old Aboriginal girl who deals with grief in the wake of her mother’s death by bonding with a lone female representative of Australia’s largest native bird species, this programming strategy is to be expected. Yet adult audiences who bypass this serene and finely-detailed coming-of-age tale do so at their own risk, as Thomas has made a deep, rich meditation on family, community, country and racial tensions that strides well beyond its girl-meets-bird logline. Flightless the Dromaius novaehollandiae may be, but Emu Runner soars. Eddie Cockrell, Variety.


escape

Escape And Evasion

Escape And Evasion (Storm Ashwood, 2019) wr. Imogen Thomas; Rena Owen, Firass Dirani, Hugh Sheridan

After his men are killed in Burma, a lone soldier returns home in search of solace. Hiding a dark secret and confronted by an unrelenting journalist, he's forced to face the ghosts of his past one last time.

Josh McConville delivers a tense, twitchy, vein-popping performance choc-full of rage and confusion as a PTSD-afflicted soldier in Escape and Evasion, writer/director Storm Ashwood’s highly ambitious and technically accomplished war film. Haunted by memories of a botched mission in Myanmar, from which he returned to Australia as the sole survivor, we meet Seth (McConville) as he is bleary-eyed, trembling and inconsolable, holding a gun to his head. Ashwood treats what happened in the jungle as a mystery, to be returned to piecemeal and teased out through flashbacks. Luke Buckmaster, The Guardian.


heartsandbones

Hearts And Bones

Hearts And Bones (Ben Lawrence, 2019) wr. Beatrix Christian, Ben Lawrence; Hugo Weaving, Andrew Luri, Hayley McElhinney

In Ben Lawrence's beautifully acted debut feature, a war photographer Hugo Weaving and a refugee Andrew Luri discover a photograph that threatens to destroy them both. Dan Fisher returns home, and despite his partner's protests, prepares for his next dangerous overseas assignment. At the same time, he is preparing for an upcoming retrospective exhibition of his work from the world's war zones. South Sudanese refugee, Sebastian Aman Luri has built a life in Australia, living happily with his wife and young child. When he learns that Daniel's exhibition may display photographs of a massacre in Sebastian's village 15 years earlier, he finds Daniel and appeals to him to exclude those photographs. An unlikely friendship develops between the two men, but it is severely tested when Daniel makes a shocking discovery. Hearts and Bones centres around the relationship of these two men, from very different backgrounds, who bond over their shared trauma. Andrew Luri, who has never acted before and was driving a garbage truck when he auditioned for the role, and Hugo Weaving both brilliantly convey the intricate relationship between the men. With these two powerful performances at its centre, Ben Lawrence has made an intelligent, morally complex and deeply moving film.


hotelmumbai

Hotel Mumbai

Hotel Mumbai (Anthony Maras, 2018) Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Tilda Cobham-Hervey; dramatisation of 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks on Taj Mahal hotel

The true story of the Taj Hotel terrorist attack in Mumbai. Hotel staff risk their lives to keep everyone safe as people make unthinkable sacrifices to protect themselves and their families.

The shootings in Christchurch, Friday 15 March 2019, would have had a negative effect on the box office, which was, nevertheless, AU$3.3mill.


iammother

I Am Mother

I Am Mother (Grant Sputore, 2018) wr. Michael Lloyd Green, prod. Kelvin Munro, Timothy White; Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank, Clara Rugaard; scifi

A teenage girl (Rugaard) is raised underground by a kindly robot 'Mother' (Byrne's voice) - designed to repopulate the earth following the extinction of humankind. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger (Swank) arrives with alarming news.

It’s far too long, and mistakes too many of its shallow ideas for remarkably deep ones. It has a few too many twists and, most disappointingly, completely discards its first opportunity to make a commentary on human nature by making Daughter a relatively average teenage girl. What would a girl be like who has never felt human touch, only seeing people through old recordings of The Tonight Show? She wouldn’t be as normal as Daughter. But I Am Mother has other intentions, ultimately feeling more like a Terminator rip-off when you want it to share more DNA with Ex Machina. It never gets in the heads of its three characters, using them as two-dimensional action movie pawns. Again, there are some interesting ideas here that could have been shaped into a tighter, more challenging movie, but that wasn’t meant to be Mother’s creation. Brian Tallerico, Roger Ebert.


judyandpunch

Judy and Punch

Judy and Punch (Mirrah Foulkes, 2019) wr. Mirrah Foulkes; Damon Herriman, Mia Wasikowska, Benedict Hardie, Terry Norris; drama; released 21 November

In Seaside (which is nowhere near the sea) puppeteers Judy and Punch are trying to resurrect their marionette show in an anarchic town on the brink of mob rule. The show is a hit due to Judy’s superior puppeteering, but Punch’s driving ambition and penchant for whisky lead to an inevitable tragedy that Judy must avenge. When Punch accidentally kills his baby during a drinking binge, his wife Judy - having suffered a violent beating - teams up with a band of outcast heretics to enact revenge on Punch and the entire town of Seaside.


Juvenile Delinquents [?]


the king

The King

The King (David Michôd, 2019) wr. Joel Edgerton, David Michôd, prod. Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Liz Watts, David Michôd, Joel Edgerton, for Plan B Entertainment, Porchlight Films, A Yoki Inc, Blue-Tongue Films; Robert Pattinson, Timothée Chalamet, Lily-Rose Depp

Hal, wayward prince and heir to the English throne, is crowned King Henry V after his tyrannical father dies. Now the young king must navigate palace politics, the war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life - including his relationship with his closest friend and mentor, the aging alcoholic knight, John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton).


locusts

Locusts

Locusts (Heath Davis, 2018) wr. Angus Watts, prod. Angus Watts, dp Chris Bland; Jessica McNamee, Ben Geurens, Peter Phelps; crime

Two estranged brothers who are reluctantly reunited in their remote hometown at their father's funeral, become the target of an extortion scam at the hands of a gang of violent local thugs.

... a dark drama about a tech entrepreneur who gets caught in an extortion racket when he returns home for his father's funeral. Written by Angus Watts, who is also producing, it stars Ben Geurens, Nathaniel Dean and Jessica McNamee.
Davis says the title is a metaphor for how a once flourishing mining town has been stripped.
Broken Hill is doubling for Serenity Crossing, which has struggled with unemployment, crime and an ice epidemic since the boom ended. ​
"The whole community actually loves movies, which is strange," Davis said between shots. ​"You go to a lot of towns - sometimes bigger cities like Sydney - and you say 'I need your house' or 'we want to film here' and nobody's interested.
"But they're all behind us. They understand the area is synonymous with filmmaking because they've done so many things."
Self-financed with a budget of $1.5 million, Locusts has a two-a-half-week shoot in Broken Hill, then two weeks in Sydney. It is Davis' second film this year after shooting the low budget school comedy Book Week in the Blue Mountains in January. Garry Maddox, SMH


naked

The Naked Wanderer

Naked Wanderer, The (Alan Lindsay, 2019) wr. Callan Durlik; Angus McLaren, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, John Cleese; WA; released 5Sept

Dumped by his girlfriend and sponsored by media scoundrel Brian King, desolate Jake walks all-but-naked up Western Australia's coast for charity, in the hope his gesture will win back Jasmine, until he meets mesmerizing backpacker Valerie.

Devastated when girlfriend Jasmine turns down his proposal to marry, Jake walks all-but-naked up the Indian Ocean coast for charity. He is driven by media scoundrel Brian King's 200k incentive to complete the walk and an ulterior motive to prove his worth to Jasmine. The walk makes Jake a celebrity, which appeals to Jasmine, but it's too late. Jake has fallen for mesmerizing backpacker Valerie. A spiteful Jasmine flies in and declares she will marry Jake after all. Jake turns Jasmine down but then Valerie vanishes.


nektronic

Nekrotonic

Nekrotronic (Kiah Roache-Turner, 2018) wr. Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner; Monica Bellucci, Tess Haubrich, Goran D. Kleut, Ben O'Toole; horror

A man discovers that he is part of a secret sect of magical beings who hunt down and destroy demons in the internet.

Horror-action-comedy hash Nekrotronic has mankind menaced by soul-sucking demons who’ve invaded the internet. A little bit Tron meets Blade, with a whole lot of other stuff thrown in, this cartoonish Aussie fanboy missive from the brothers Roache-Turner mashes together high energy, lowbrow humor, and a barrage of visual effects to enjoyable but rather numbing effect. Villainness Monica Bellucci may give a lift in some offshore quarters to a hybrid genre exercise whose lack of other star wattage — and excess of every other shiny or explosive thing — suggests target-audience access will be primarily via home formats. Dennis Harvey, Variety.


nightingale

The Nightingale

Nightingale, The (Jennifer Kent, 2018) wr. Jennifer Kent, prod. Kristina Ceyton, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky; Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood; drama set Tasmania 1829; screened VeniceFF 6Sept18, AdelaideFF 13Oct18, and SydneyFF 9 Jun19; released 29Aug19

Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.


outback

Outback

Outback (Mike Green, 2019) wr. Mike Green, Brien Kelly; Brendan Donoghue, Taylor Wiese, Lauren Lofberg

Down Under for an adventure-filled vacation, a young American couple quickly find themselves stranded in the unforgiving Australian outback.

First-time feature filmmaker Mike Green has done a tremendous job exploring these dangers in his new film, Outback – a survival nightmare based on the true story of an American couple, Wade (Taylor Wiese) and Lisa (Lauren Lofberg), who become stranded on their way to Uluru. Think Gerald Rocionato’s Cage Dive on dirt.
While Outback is a tense, nail-biting thriller at its heart, the film leans heavily into the horror genre with plenty of blood and flesh wounds to satisfy the most hard-core gorehound. Outback’s heart-racing thrills come courtesy of the film’s Jason Voorhees. This is a film where an entire country is the villain and its machete is snakes, scorpions, isolation and the harsh Australian sun. CinemaAustralia.


palm beach 2

Palm Beach

Palm Beach (Rachel Ward, 2019) prod. Bryan Brown, Deb Balderstone, wr. Joanna Murray-Smith, Rachel Ward; Richard E. Grant, Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Greta Scacchi, Jacqueline McKenzie, Claire van der Boom, Aaron Jeffrey, Heather Mitchell, Matilda Brown, Frances Berry, Charlie Vickers; dramedy; released 8 August

Lifelong friends reunite for a party at Sydney's Palm Beach.

After a lax first half, Palm Beach slowly settles into a groove, growing in complexity and nuance. However, Ward’s laidback approach is not remotely cinematic (this feels more like a filmed play), and never is there a sense of urgency or stakes. I kept waiting for that moment around the dinner table when a character would air a long-held grievance or deliver some kind of whopping big revelation, turning heads and dropping jaws. There are hurt feelings and expressions of pent-up emotions, but the climax never arrived. Luke Buckmaster, Guardian.


pimped

Pimped

Pimped (David Barker, 2018) Ella Scott Lynch, Benedict Samuel, Heather Mitchell, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Robin Goldsworthy; thriller; festival release Aug18

Two twisted housemates lure an unbalanced woman into a sexual trap, with murderous results.

A modern transgressive thriller, Pimped follows Sarah Montrose, a woman who isn't well-equipped to live within society's accepted lines of behaviour, struggling with her own identity, desires, and loves. When all this is threatened by a monster, Sarah calls on all her strength and cunning to do battle with a psychopath, and her own inner demon.

In his debut feature, director David Barker's psychological thriller starts with promise but spirals into no-man's land when credibility becomes stretched and the basic concept loses its way. Sex, murder and dark secrets are the key ingredients of the tale that begins when Sarah (Ella Scott Lynch) meets Lewis (Benedict Samuel) for a potential night of passion. Barker has collaborated with Lou Mentor to write a screenplay that offers interesting concepts, dark themes and a set of spectacular twists. What begins as intrigue dissipates as splatter kicks in and things become just plain silly. Louise Keller, urbancinefile.


promised

Promised

Promised (Nick Conidi, Tony Ferrieri, Nathan Primmer, 2019) wr. Nick Conidi; Paul Mercurio, Antoniette Iesue, Mirko Grillini, Tina Arena

In 1953, two young Italian children are promised in marriage by their fathers. Twenty one years on - despite changing times, fading traditions and 1970s liberation - the pair are expected to marry, or face the consequences.

To its credit, the film resists any temptation to do a Fat Pizza andmake a cartoon out of Italo-Australian customs and attitudes. Cast as Angela’s father, Paul Mercurio pulls back before his performance can tip over into caricature and Tina Arena, as her mother, works hard to maintain her role as the voice of reason.
It’s not a particularly stylish film. The lighting is flat and the script struggles towards the end in coming up with stratagems to delay the inevitably happy ending but there’s a simmering good humour to it and a sense of reality that turns its ordinariness into a virtue. Sandra Hall, SMH.


reflections

Reflections In The Dust

Reflections In The Dust (Luke Sullivan, 2018) wr. Luke Sullivan; Robin Royce Queree, Sarah Houbolt, Aldo Fedato, Sage Godrei, Ali Aitken

A blind girl struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with her father - an emotionally abusive clown.

This low-budget first feature from 23-year-old Australian director Luke Sullivan sits at the bleak extreme of the current vogue in dystopian fantasies. ... Sullivan's interest in context and atmosphere is strictly confined to the paranoia governing their relationship. He describes the film as an allegory about the epidemic of violence against women in Australia and his only concession to aesthetics is in the high contrast style of the film's cinematography with its inky depths and glistening whites. Most of the story is told in a flow of confronting close-ups, loudly proclaiming his emphatic desire to disturb. Sandra Hall, SMH.


ridelikeagirl

Ride Like a Girl

Ride Like a Girl (Rachel Griffiths, 2019) wr. Andrew Knight, Elise McCredie, dp Martin McGrath; Teresa Palmer, Sam Neill, Sullivan Stapleton; Michelle Payne biopic

Michelle Payne rode Prince of Penzance to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015.

The film topped the Australian box office on its opening weekend (end September) taking $1.7m for the weekend, with a cumulative total of $2.4m. IF mag.

We may one day have a film that exposes the rough underside of the Australian horseracing industry but Ride Like a Girl isn’t it. Sandra Hall, The Age.

Griffiths successfully adapts to her first role as director and maintains a tight rein on her crew. Lisa Dethridge, The Conversation.


sequinSequin In A Blue Room

Sequin In A Blue Room (Samuel Van Grinsven, 2019) wr. Jory Anast, Samuel Van Grinsven; Conor Leach, Simon Croker, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor

After a chance encounter at an anonymous sex party, a sixteen year old boy hunts through the world of a hook-up app to track down the mystery man. Favouring the instant gratification of anonymous, no-strings sexual encounters over meaningful relationships, high schooler Sequin is part of the always logged-on, but never-engaged, hook-up generation. He ghosts ex-partners and remains emotionally unavailable. That's until he finds his way to an anonymous sex party, where a whole new dizzyingly alluring world unfolds before him. In one scene, Sequin connects with a mysterious stranger, but they are separated suddenly. Utterly fixated on this man, Sequin sets off on an exhilarating and perilous mission to track him down. Cowritten by Jory Anast and Samuel Van Grinsven, Sequin in a Blue Room is a highly-accomplished queer coming-of-age tale and a breath of fresh air from the Australian independent film scene.


slam

Slam

Slam (Partho Sen-Gupta, 2018) wr. Partho Sen-Gupta; Adam Bakri, Rachael Blake, Rebecca Breeds

Ricky Nasser is a young Australian whose peaceful suburban life turns into hell when sister Ameena, a slam poet, disappears without a trace.

The rhythm and power of a poetry slam are featured in the film Slam. Directed by Sunrise director, Partho Sen-Gupta, it is a powerful look at race and gender relations.

Ameena, a slam poet who endorses violence to be met with violence, goes missing. Ricky, her brother, who’s more accustomed to spending time with his pregnant wife at sophisticated dinner parties, goes looking for her. There is a clash of cultures as Ricky has to attend to his pregnant wife and the anguish of his family. The clash is between those with scarred experiences versus the comfortable locals with fear-induced prejudices.
It’s also the story of Joanne, the police officer who is assigned to go looking for Ameena. She has her own demons to deal with while looking for a missing person. Michael Collins, 2SER.


stormboy

Storm Boy

Storm Boy (Shawn Seet, 2019) wr. Justin Monjo, prod. Michael Boughen, Matthew Street; Geoffrey Rush, Jai Courtney; SA

Box office would have been negatively affected due to the inability to use Geoffrey Rush in publicity because of the 'scandal' in which he was involved at the time, but the film garnered nearly AU$5mill.

Themes of loss, grief and separation are pitched at just the right level to resonate with children and adults alike. Seet brings everything to a moving and meaningful conclusion with a lovely piece of magic realism. Richard Kuipers, Variety.

Safran’s film looked up to the skies, evoking the wonderful flying creature as a symbol of eternal beauty, its wings flapping in hearts and minds as much as in the universe. But in the new film, by literally creating a bust of the bird – as if a clump of stone or plaster could compare with the natural majesty of wings and feathers – the meaning has been accidentally inverted: a story about how something can never die becomes about how it will never live again. Luke Buckmaster.


wildlife

Suburban Wildlife

Suburban Wildlife (Imogen McCluskey, 2019) wr. Béatrice Barbeau-Scuria, Imogen McCluskey; Maddy McEilliam, Hannah Lehmann, Priscilla Doueihy

Following their recent graduation, four friends distract themselves from the looming responsibilities of adulthood. But as the boundaries between real and surreal blur, they are faced with decisions that will define the rest of their lives.

Long-time friends Louise, Nina and Alice celebrate their recent graduation with hectic partying, joined by their friend Kane who is the only friend not to attend university. Louise's imminent departure for London adds to the underlying tension within the group, and as the boundaries between real and surreal blur, Louise devises an intervention to save their final days together. They embark on a road trip to regional Australia, and upon returning home face the reality of her departure. They are left, a group of suburban animals, on the threshold of their lives.


Top End Wedding

Top End Wedding (Wayne Blair, 2019) wr. Miranda Tapsell, Joshua Tyler; Gwilym Lee, Miranda Tapsell, Kerry Fox, Huw Higginson, Shari Sebbens, Ursula Yovich; comedy; released 2May

Lauren and Ned are engaged, and they have just ten days to reunite her parents for their dream wedding - which actually takes place in Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island - so it's really Wurrumiyanga Wedding.

The first hour of Top End Wedding can be downright annoying in its simplicity and bad screenwriting, reminding me more of the kind of multiplex rom-coms that currently star people like Jennifer Lopez. Then it hit me. Most of this movie is just prologue to what really matters to Blair and Tapsell and that’s the arrival in a part of the world we haven’t really seen in a Sundance film before. There’s a genuine respect for the people of the Tiwi Islands that’s effective and even moving, and Top End Wedding really becomes a different film altogether when Lauren gets there—although even then Blair can’t avoid an airport revelation and other cheesy rom-com clichés. The Sundance description for Top End Wedding ends with “... making you wonder why you’ve stayed away for so long.” I too wondered why this movie stayed away from what works about it for as long as it does. James Tallerica, Roger Ebert.


Undertow

Undertow (Miranda Nation, 2018) wr. Miranda Nation; Olivia DeJonge, Josh Helman, Rob Collins

Undertow’s opening image moves from a running bath tap to protagonist Claire (Laura Gordon, recently in Hoges and Joe Cinque’s Consolation), who is nursing her pregnant belly. She will soon have a stillborn baby, which draws to the surface issues with her husband Dan (Rob Collins, from Cleverman). Much of the drama revolves around a melancholic truth which, though simple, isn’t easy subject matter to explore: that some women are desperate to give birth while others are devastated when they learn they are pregnant.
While Nation presents those introductory images of Claire she cuts to a younger woman, Angie (Olivia DeJonge), partying with football player Brett (Josh Helman, who played the War Boy Slit in Mad Max: Fury Road). These two yet-to-meet characters will steer Undertow in increasingly interesting and unpredictable directions. Among the film’s surprises is an intensely thoughtful rumination on football culture, leading to questions not dissimilar to the kinds posed in [Thomas M.] Wright’s film [Acute Misfortune] about whether Australia puts the wrong kind of people on pedestals. Luke Buckmaster, The Guardian.


Thanks to IF Mag.


I make these lists every year as a way of keeping in touch with what one might assume are the best Australian feature films at the time. I do the same with Oscar possibilities for the same reason, mutatis mutandem. But ...

In 2012, The Sapphires - about an Aboriginal singing group - won eleven PC awards. Blind Freddy could have seen that Burning Man was the best film that year.

In 2013, The Great Gatsby won best film and six craft awards, tho it has nothing to do with Australia. Leonardo DiCaprio won best actor! WTF?

In 2016, another American story, Hacksaw Ridge, won most of the awards. It's a war film set in Okinawa. There are no Australian characters in the story.

In 2017, Lion won 12 of the 14 awards, and it wasn't the best film - but at least one-third of it was actually set in Australia (tho with really bad Australian actors).

In 2018, the 'best' film was an ordinary western in which the main character was played by a non-actor - who was also voted 'best actor'.

[In September] I'm guessing that front runners in 2019 will include (in this order): Ride Like a Girl, Danger Close, Hotel Mumbai, The Nightingale, Storm Boy, Palm Beach, Top End Wedding, I Am Mother.

[In September, I think] Ride Like a Girl will do better than it should because it's 'feminist', and popular, and made millions of dollars - and it's about a horse race on Australia's (real) national day. Danger Close will do better than it should because of 'patriotism'. Storm Boy will do better than it should because it's a remake of a classic, and it has kid in it, and a bird - who are both sort-of cute. Palm Beach will do better than it should because it has half the fkn industry in it. Top End Wedding will do better than it should because of its Indigenous content (or First Nation People content, as we are now going to have call it). The other three will deserve what they get - tho it may be just the crumbs of Best Makeup, Best Sound, Best Costumes or whatever.

[In October ... ] I wrote the above note before the nominees were announced. I am surprised that Danger Close, Palm Beach, and Storm Boy didn't get up—and my opinions about them are now nugatory. But at least I can be pleased to see that Judy & Punch is there, and The Nightingale—tho not The King, which in my opinion the world did not need. I suspect it's nominated because Netflix poured money into it, and because Timothée Chalamet is in it.


Garry Gillard | New: 10 September, 2019 | Now: 21 November, 2019