Looking for Grace

Looking for Grace (Sue Brooks, 2015) aka Driving Back from Dubbo; wr. Sue Brooks, prod. Lizzette Atkins, Sue Taylor, Alison Tilson; Richard Roxburgh, Radha Mitchell, Odessa Young, Kenya Pearson, Terry Norris, Julia Blake, Tasma Walton; family melodrama

'How we make sense of the mess of our lives and what it all means,' is how an official synopsis describes the subject of fragmented Australian family drama Looking for Grace. That's a tall order for any film, surely, not least one as modestly scaled as Sue Brooks' diverting but slightly disappointing fifth feature. Reprising some of the gentle existential concerns raised in her outstanding broken-backed romance Japanese Story, Brooks latest begins in a promisingly melancholic key, as the teenaged Grace of the title retreats into the Outback after mysteriously leaving home. As the splintered, overlapping narrative expands to include the interior crises of her parents, however, Grace morphs less confidently into a brittle suburban satire. The film's tone - to say nothing of what it all means - remains elusive to the end. Guy Lodge, Variety.

The title is and is not a kind of feint, there are no larger metaphors or journeys in play. The shock that comes at the end feels equally devoid of meaning - and perhaps that’s the point, but it makes for rather meandering viewing. More than once I called Brooks' handle on the story into question, especially where it involves Grace herself, who just seems… awful. The film's many fragments never arrange to form a context in which Grace's behaviour - nor that of the characters who spend the film looking for her – can make coherent, emotional sense. Michelle Orange, SBS Movies.

Looking for Grace is yet another Australian feature that makes a virtue out of vagueness. A small, quirky film, it unfolds like a detective story that never builds up dramatic momentum. The script is permeated with deadpan comedy that echoes the disjointed, inarticulate way so many Australians interact, but there are no great insights to be gleaned from this mirror.
This kind of dialogue is virtually a trademark for writer-director, Sue Brooks, who relates the vast emptiness of the Australian landscape to a spiritual emptiness within the lives of her characters. If any of the people in this film are seeking 'grace' in the form of enlightenment or a gift from God, they are barely able to discuss this need, let alone understand it. John McDonald, Fin.

I wondered for a while what I was meant to extract from all this. Was it something about the essential randomness of life – the possibility that free will is just a myth and chance will blindside you every time. But I'm not sure that Brooks is being as ambitious as that. She just wants you to feel for these people. And you do. Sandra Hall, SMH.

Garry Gillard | New: 7 July, 2016 | Now: 7 July, 2016