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Director: Paul IrelandPawno

Screenplay: Damien Hill

Cast: Damien Hill, John Brumpton, Maeve Dermody, Mark Coles Smith, Kerry Armstrong, Malcolm Kennard, Brad McMurray, John Orcsik, Mark Silveira.

A day in the suburb of Footscray.

Pawno is a well-paced, character driven film with a great soundtrack.  A snapshot of Footscray culture showing insight into the need to belong with a bit of humour thrown in the mix.

I remember when I first moved to Melbourne in the ’90s, walking to the Footscray train station after staying at a friends the night before.  Suddenly, there was this young Vietnamese guy asking me, ‘Are you chasing?  Are you chasing?’

A catch phrase if I was looking for a hit.

Did I look like I was chasing?  I probably did that morning, hungover, a skinny 18-year-old heading for the train station on a Sunday morning.

Footscray is known for its drug culture.  But there’s so much more to this suburb, shown so well in this film.

The characters are the story.

The director, Paul Ireland, shared the difficulty in finding two actors who could play the part of Pauly (Mark Coles Smith) and Carlo (Malcolm Kennard), the two junkies drinking their dose of methadone, passing the day; great mates that’ll break your heart.

Friendship and humour can get a person through the day, through the quiet desperation of needing that hit.  The mateship of these two junkies is a delight even though the tragedy is obvious.  It’s such a pleasure to see the good boys underneath the bad.  To see the life behind the begging.  There’s a dark humour here, shown with a depth of understanding.

Then there’s Les Underwood (John Brumpton), owner of a Pawn shop: what a great place to show each character, to show the underbelly when in need of a loan.

Les is a wise and warm character on the one hand and a no-nonsense man, on the other.  An iconic Aussie male who’s seen it all and can tell the bullshit from the genuine.

But love his dog Ruby, you love the man.

It’s a fine line between making a profit and giving someone a loan out of mateship.  Sometimes, it’s brutal.

John tells a mother (Kerry Armstrong) looking for her junkie son, ‘The young keep their own time.’

What more can he do?

‘I’ll let you know when he pops up again.’

Then there’s the shy Danny Williams (Damien Hill) working alongside John as his assistant.  A gentle character who in finding his mental stability begins his search for love.  The community embraces Danny, accepting those who are really trying versus the real desperates, the junkies who are still chasing, baby bottle in hand.

Damien Hill was also the screenwriter of Pawno, and I’m not surprised he has a background in the theatre as it’s the dialogue that makes this film such a success.

The addition of the young blind girl playing the ukulele adds an emotional note, knowing she’s not quite right, but her heart is there, in her playing.  In the Q&A session, the director, Paul Ireland said it took just one take at each location for her to get it right.  And it’s beautiful, her voice and her playing.

All of the characters are flawed.  Each with their own battle of mental illness, heartbreak, addiction; loneliness.

It would have been easy to get bogged down in the melancholy, but there’s humour here, the focus is on the good: the poem written to the beautiful girl in the bookshop, the drummers tapping out a heartbeat and the dance of a local in appreciation, the expression of graffiti and the love of a dog.  Pawno shows life in all its complications with the simplicity of a leaky kettle or a favourite mug.

I was surprised there wasn’t a greater focus on the Vietnamese culture.  Walking the main street, you will see nothing but Vietnamese restaurants with aquariums full of what’s to eat.  And this could have been better represented in the film by showing more of the signage, hearing the language.

Scratching the surface of the Vietnamese culture would have added a greater weight to the film but I appreciated the thought put into each character who was shown.

You don’t need to throw a lot of money at a film when you’ve got characters with depth.

A bit of compassion goes a long way.  Sometimes, it’s enough.  Sometimes it’s a pinch on the inner arm, just to know you’re alive.  That inner voice saying, ‘I am here.  I am here.’

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The Witch: A New-England Folktale

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director and Writer: Robert EggersThe Witch: A New-England Folktale

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson; Bathsheba Garrett.

A serious film that picks at the heart of our psyche – being part of the social group versus apart and left in isolation, waiting for the devil in the woods.

In the 17th century, being cast out meant the threat of starvation, lack of others outside the family for partners and left at the mercy of the elements.  A time for belief in God.  But not in the winter time.  The creaking of the pine trees speak of winter.  The witches are the only ones who can survive in the forest.

The Witch is an authentic film pulling the audience back to times where evil is present because life is just as cruel.

I can understand the worship of nature where the power is unknown.  God is the only amulet against the power of the forest.  But when God was most exalted and prayed upon, He was most absent.

To control the nature of man equals control of the elements.  It’s a cruel concept.  And depicted so well in this film.

A failed crop would equate the man failing to provide through lack of work or lack of faith.  The enslavement of women to the care of children, to clean and cook.  If the woman rebelled it was because she was faithless.  And you can imagine the temptation to run off naked into the forest to become a witch.  But this film depicted the true horror of witchcraft.  The taking and killing of babies to make lotions, to make them young; to be able to fly.

It was subtle, how Director and Writer Robert Eggers showed the disintegration of this family.  The Sanpaku eyes, where the white part of the eye is visible under the iris representing approaching danger; the attraction of accidents and violence – The ignorance of the skill of dogs sensing danger.  And the soundtrack was used well to keep the film moving forward.

However, I admit, I was bored at times.

I can understand why Robert Eggers won the Sundance directing award for this movie.  And I want to give full credit, but I can’t because it was just such a dry film.  Deep but dry.

Worth a watch with the concept handled well until the frightening conclusion.

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Eye in the Sky

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Gavin HoodEye In The Sky

Screenplay: Guy Hibbert

Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi, Lain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Northam.


I was completely absorbed by this film, from beginning to end.

I’m not a fan of war movies.  I find the violence a little too real and disturbing because it is all too true.  But Eye in the Sky isn’t one of those blood and guts type of films, it analyses the hierarchy, the politics of war.  It makes murderers of all involved.

What a fascinating take on such a complicated issue.  We are at war, but from the comforts of our homes; directions are made behind closed doors and bombs dropped from drones.  War, in these days, is an ethical conundrum.

There was no loss of momentum in this film, even though the focus was a quiet examination made through dialogue between the characters; the suspense in waiting for difficult decisions that must be made. Not an easy task and very well handled by director, Gavin Hood (Tsotsi (2005), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Ender’s Game (2013)).  He lets the characters tell the story in the simplicity of one day, one long moment shown in all its depth and complexity.  And using this linear time-line and keeping it simple, the film felt authentic.

Helen Mirren was perfectly cast as Colonel Katherine Powell.  A tough as nails, uncompromising military soldier who never waivers from her duty.  And mixed emotions seeing Alan Rickman in his final performance as Lieutenant General Frank Benson: a sympathetic character showing his humanity under the cast iron soul of a soldier.  Hard to believe this brilliant actor will no longer grace our screens.

It was interesting to have the curtains drawn back to show what happens behind the closed doors of war.  I can only sympathise with the people who have to make decisions to try and save as many lives as possible.  Deciding what are the legal, ethical and moral ramifications behind the killing of people in a different country – and whose life is worth more.

Eye in the Sky was thought-provoking, suspenseful and moving without theatrics.  A film to get people talking about issues that need to be spoken about.

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A Bigger Splash

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA 15+A Bigger Splash

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Screenplay: Dave Kajganich

Story: Alain Page

Starring: Tida Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Corrado Guzzanti, Lily McMenamy, Aurore Clément; Elena Bucci.

An English language Italian-French erotic thriller.

After having throat surgery, Marianne Lane (Tida Swinton) goes on a retreat from her rock star career with her lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).

The film opens to an idyllic life of sun, mud, the blue of the ocean and the relaxation of naked lovers lounging by the pool.  Until Harry (Ralph Fiennes) arrives.  Bringing his long lost daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson) with him.

I’d never thought of Tida Swinton as sexy until seeing her playing Marianne.  Think, We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011), Constantine (2005) and I’ll never forget her in Orlando (1992).  But there’s a genuine love and warmth in this silent yet expressive character.  And the chemistry between Marianne and Paul is totally believable.  As is the subtleties of the narcissism of youth in Penelope and the unbalanced, lost, selfish but, gotta love him for his dancing moves, Harry.  The guy dances like a demented chicken.

And I admit I became a bit jealous of the love between Marianne and Paul, so intimately portrayed to the audience.

What a great mix of characters.  All so well cast and well played.  At one point Harry states, ‘Honesty is the greatest fidelity.’  Where Paul responds, ‘The world isn’t ready for your honesty.’

Set on an island somewhere between Sicily and Tunisia, the elements are used to build the tension: the desert winds, the porcelain faces of pots; ruined boats flaking red and blue and the lost immigrants appearing from behind crumbling buildings set on baron clifftops.  And the ever present snakes.

Director, Luca Guadagnino shows the story using the landscape and montages, almost glitches in the flow to set a slight unease in the audience.  There’s a tension that brews in this film and I loved the classic soundtrack used to set the flavour of the film giving a clarity to the mystery, almost like cleansing the palate.

There’s a fair bit of nudity here, but the film has such a mature feel, it’s just another part of the character’s personality.  How comfortable they are naked in front of others.

The only negative is there was a loss of momentum where the peak of the film was reached too early.  But the story continued giving a greater depth of character.  That looking back with regret, or the feeling you never have to do that stupid thing again.  Or, hell, maybe I will.  But now things are different.  Life is different.  And the consequences of previous choices are now being felt.  And either forgotten, held for ransom, cut away, forgiven or gotten away with.  Life; people.  You just don’t always know what you’re going to get.

I enjoyed watching this film, the subtleties of each character and the beautiful scenery.

Nice to watch one made for the adults.

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