Australasian Cinema > films > Road to Nhill

Road to Nhill

Road to Nhill (Sue Brooks, 1997) wr. Alison Tilson; prod. Sue Maslin, dp Nicolette Freeman,* Gecko Films/Ronin Films; Phillip Adams, Tony Barry, Vikki Blanche, Paul Chubb, Lynette Curran, Matthew Dyktynski, Bill Hunter, Patricia Kennedy, Alwyn Kurts, Monica Maughan, Terry Norris, Lois Ramsey, Denise Roberts, Kerry Walker, Bill Young; one of a few Oz films with the sport of lawn bowls as (here partial) setting; *Nicolette Freeman's only feature as dp

This is a sophisticated film, for grownups, signalled by God commencing the film (a voiceover by Phillip Adams). It's in part a mocodoco (or mockumentary) - in which main characters seem to talk to camera as if interviewed by a documentarian.

I've quoted Andrew Urban's reviews in part many times (and thank him: he's a really nice guy). For this film he had a lead reviewer, Paul Fischer, who really didn't like the film, and wrote a disparaging paragraph - with which Andrew unconditionally agreed. I've been meaning to get around to re-considering this film since it first appeared - I've only seen it once - and was disappointed to find that the only review available was a negative one. I have a very affectionate memory of the film, but didn't buy a copy when I could have, so I'll have to look around for one.

Here's a bit of Fischer's review, which I admit I think is well written.

...aimless comedy about a group of lawn bowlers whose car crashes near their home, turning the lives of the locals into a frenzy. But there's no frenzy. Just a lot of pausing. In fact, there's so much pausing in this film, that had they cut it out, the running time would have gone from 95 to 60 minutes. Harold Pinter can get away with it, but this is not Pinter.

And a bit of Andrew's response.

Very generous of you, Paul; I actually think the film needed a demanding script editor to restructure it. 

I hope to be able to write something to restore the balance a bit. I can at least remember the one joke in the film, which might give some idea of its laidback existential flavour. A driver in an emergency vehicle asks about where the accident happened, over the two-way: 'Is it Nhill Road, or the road that actually leads to Nhill?'

In my dim memory, I thought the standout performance was that of Monica Maughan. But of course the most notable thing about the whole shebang is the participation of none other than Saint Phillip Adams as, of all things, the voice of God!

David Stratton review, SBS, 16 Nov 1997: he liked it a lot, giving it 4 stars. He compares it favourably to The Castle, saying that it's in that 'tradition' (whatever that means), but dislikes Adams' participation. Margaret also gives it 4 stars, calling it a 'farce'.

Having now seen the film for a third time, I think I can now see why I was quite intrigued by it the first time: it's because of the way it fails. It's full of lacunae and silences and possible meanings ... signifying not much. But not quite nothing. The main thing that comes out of it is the inadequacy of the gender that's supposed to be running things - and making a complete cockup of it. As a film written, produced, directed and shot by women, and with a long and strong cast of mature women, it's not surprising that it is - as it should be - a powerful feminist document.

Notes and Links

Wikipedia page.
NFSA page.
Won the Golden Alexander (first prize) for Best Feature-Length Film at The International Thessaloniki Film Festival (Wikipedia).

Garry Gillard | New: 14 January, 2016 | Now: 28 June, 2020