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Harry Lister Smith
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I enjoyed this film, but am left with lots of thoughts; but few feelings! I wonder if the script by first time director Cris Jones is a little too smart for its own good. There's lots of exposition that is delivered from some luminary Australian actors such as John Gaden and Jacek Koman, and the film is very cleverly cast with Rachel Ward and her real life offspring Matilda Brown playing the same character at different life stages, but there is a coldness to this film that I can't get past. There's a disconnect; an aloofness that keeps the material esoteric and for this viewer a bit of a mind f#@K
Xavier Samuel (is he the only young Australian actor getting the good roles?), plays the ubiquitous title role and there is certainly a sense of mystery but also blankness from this good looking, but not especially dynamic actor. The narrative's reliance on so much explanation means that although the viewer is given opportunity to grapple with the film's construct, it spends too much of its already economic running time in the head, and not the heart. As a man who has a particularly odd and perplexing condition, Otto Bloom's life and death are pondered more than they are illustrated here.
There are some lovely sequences involving graphics and creative use of photographs and mock headlines and news bulletins, and the film does evoke an odd sense of reality and heightened reality, but at the end, I am still pondering if I have been overly conned or really challenged as a viewer. I can live with the latter but perhaps not the former. It is great to see Rachel Ward in such a substantial role on screen, and whilst it may seem as if all her scenes are just pieces to camera, her narrative link and physical presence are essential to the film's success in belief (the disbelief comes more from whether the basic conceit is as watertight as the writer/director would have us believe).
This is an original work in so many ways, but it falls short of greatness for me; in part as I was not overly moved by it; and also as I am left with those nagging quibbles about the story itself. But I applaud the clever use of the medium and the grand vision being explored.
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