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I saw "Tom White" at its world premiere on Saturday July 31st, 2004;
here in Melbourne.
"Tom White" tells the story of an ordinary guy whose life goes off the rails. When things fall apart at work, something snaps, and Tom sets out, leaving his home and family behind. What follows is almost a series of vignettes detailing Tom's run-ins with other people on the 'fringes of society', people in a world hidden in his city that he never really knew about.
I found this movie deeply thoughtful. Stepping away from the more lighthearted Australian comedy, this movie is a very thoughtful character study, looking into something for which most people have the capacity, but never really have the courage. Tom runs away from home, from his professional life in a desk job, and in doing so begins a new life, with a clean slate. He is no longer judged by his past, but by the person he is in that moment.
I watched this movie (set here in Melbourne) and found myself looking at landmarks I know in a totally different way when I passed them the next time: a day, a week later. This kind of film doesn't let go straight away, it has you thinking for quite awhile afterward too.
Recommended for audiences willing to take a chance with the relaxed pace and simply let the film wash over them. For me, the evaluation came at a later time: in the theatre I was swept away by the intriguing photography and the great performances by everyone, particularly Colin Friels (Tom White), Loene Carmen (Christine) and Jarryd Jinks (Jet). Dan Spielman and Bill Hunter gave stand-out performances also.
Three and a half from Five Stars.
In Tom White, the title character (played by Colin Friels) "drops out"
of society after a work crisis and becomes homeless. He drifts through
Melbourne meeting a rent boy (Dan Spielman), an ex-junkie (Loene
Carmen), a tramp (Bill Hunter) and a young graffiti artist (Jarryd
Scripted by Australian playwright Daniel Keane, Tom White continues to explore the societal dissociation that Keane covers in his stage works. Like them, too, it suffers from heavy-handedness, resulting in impassioned performances from hollow characters.
Additionally, Keane's interest in medieval miracle plays where every character is symbolic clashes with director Alkinos Tsilimidos and cinematographer Toby Oliver's naturalistic film-making. Tom White is harshly lit and like Praise (1998), confronts the ugliness in Australian society. At the same time we don't know what motivates these people, and the dialogue is unrealistic. It's an uneasy mix.
Colin Friels turns in a strong performance, as does Rachel Blake as his wife. But many of the other characters are overly stagey. Tom White is at its most interesting towards the end, when Tom is interacting with the young graffiti artist, but is overall an interesting failure. **/***** stars.
This is a thought-provoking Australian film about the subject of
untreated mental illness and the total isolation from family and
friends which can follow. It shows how those who suffer from mental
health problems may try to cope with the situation themselves rather
than seek medical attention. It's a dark and brooding film, which
explores the twists and turns of life on the street, and shows us how
difficult such a life can be. The movie avoids sentimentality and
leaves the viewer to ponder where untreated depression and related
mental health issues may ultimately lead.
Colin Freils provides a wonderful character study in his role as Tom. Unfortunately, though, some of the support acting is decidedly lacklustre. Nice camera work throughout.
'Tom White' contrasts strongly with several other well-known films dealing with mental illness: 'A Beautiful mind' was a glossy big-budget production with a positive message, and 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest' focused on an institutional setting.
As an Australian currently living in Sweden, I enjoy the rare chance of
getting to watch something Australian. Even if the movie itself turns
out to be awful, seeing Australian brand food in the meal eating scenes
and hearing real Australian accents and slang words is a novelty. But
more importantly, with movies like Tom White, having lived in Australia
makes me appreciate the dark humour and sarcasm that a lot of people
miss. A perfect example of this is the scene with Tom and a homeless
man (The homeless man's name has slipped my mind).
Homeless man: What's a man when he's dead? Tom: He's ****ing dead.
These sort of comments delivered in a deadpan way are typical of Australian humour, and also of Australian straight forward, honest attitudes. Unfortunately a lot of viewers from 'overseas' won't realize these sorts of one liners and overly negative comments are meant to be funny.
All this aside, Tom White is a great movie. It's essentially divided into parts. Each part of the movie focuses on the friendship between Tom and whoever he's currently living with. The friendships last about 20 minutes of screen time each, once the friendships end for various reasons, the film becomes about the next person Tom befriends. Because of this, watching Tom White is a bit like watching 4-5 different short films, with each friendship being its own film. All of the characters are interesting, including the minor characters, like the homeless aboriginal guy with a long grey beard and carrot top shaped hair.
If you have any romantic fantasies about living in Australia, let me tell you that this movie is a fairly accurate portrayal of Australian life and Australian people. You don't spend all day at the beach, seeing kangaroos is a novelty that gets old fast. The Australia in Tom White is the real Australia. The characters in the movie is what real Australians are like. Australians are like the people in this movie, not Steve Irwin. Living in Australia is like they live in the beginning of the film, it's not spending all day surfing.
Recent controversy over whether Australian cinema is a dead art,
funding crisis and what you will is defiantly put to rest in Tom White
which details the underbelly of a society Tom (Colin Friels) didn't
know existed when an overworked draftsman who never really achieved
everything he wanted in life runs away from his life to live on the
street. Along the way he meets a variety of characters who change his
outlook on life.
The film is certainly not perfect, but is beautifully shot and acted. Director Alkinos Tsilimidos has a unique way of shooting clichéd imagery - a wave rolling in to shore, for example. The acting is fairly uneven and the script often finds itself on the wrong side of lackluster, but the film has a distinctly Australian presence and Friels is fantastic as Tom White.
This film delivers an emotional punch and is overall quite pleasant and rewarding when seen alone on a rainy Sunday afternoon. 6/10.
There is a small percentage of homeless people who drop out of society completely by choice. This fact never seems real to those of us who have stable families, jobs and routines. Most often these people have an abiding antipathy for the values which society proclaims as worthwhile. Tom White is one of these people. This film is perhaps a little overly optimistic in its depiction of White's fate. I expect that bean counters would have had some role here. The plot is bleak enough without being too realistic. What the film does do is remind us of what a treasure we have in Colin Friels. I can't imagine too many actors who could have played such an anti-social part, but still made us care about what happens to him. Homelessness is an issue most Australians never have to face, and do not understand. I laud the producers of this film for this attempt to remove the lid on such an important issue.
I'm sorry, I agree Colin Friels is a brilliant actor...BUT... this
movie stinks! The worst part about it is the endless parade of totally
unbelievable characters. The way this movie was written, directed and
acted, I didn't buy for a second it could actually happen.
This middle-aged bloke all of a sudden having a nervous breakdown and stumbling across a rent-boy in a pub toilet, taking him home, making him breakfast, going to a boozey party and then ending up in the sack with him...going to the carnival and casually picking up the junkie chick with the heart of gold who's running the slug-gun game.... being stopped from smashing the pimp's dog by Bill Hunter quoting the classics who later reprises his triumphant role from 'Priscilla, queen of the desert' by hitting on him...etc, etc, etc..
It was just too much! How this ever got funding is beyond me... it was just so fake & disingenuous I thought...
'Tom White' is another example of an Aussie movie trying hard with a serious human story, but applying the worst of Television techniques. The reliably good principal actors did their best against a patchy script that intended to express a tragic human story but fell into the usual pitfalls of uncinematic scriptwriters and directors. There was little subtext. The characters tended to state the obvious. There was no convincing back-story to propel the central character onto his tragic path. The depth of field was generally bland, with considerable dead areas (common in TV studio shoots), and the framing was mainly executed in wide shots and mid shots. In Cinema, the choice of camera angles, and camera movements is a subtle and effective language in itself. Cinematography is intended to be a wonderful ally to both the screenplay and the emotional presence of the actors. Cinematography isn't simply a matter of recording what happens in front of the lens. Colin Friels was prepasred to give his all. He deserved to have been in a better film. Or was it the typical case in Australia of lack of funds, creating an impossibly stringent shooting schedule, depriving the director of the time to shoot it the way the director really wanted?
saw this film not knowing what to expect and was surprised. I like that it made me think and i also like that i was still thinking 2 days later. I did question at the end of the film whether or not it had given me sufficient closure, given the context of the film, but i have revaluated that thought. I think this was an awesome film, and i would recommend it to anyone. Colin friels did an awesome job ( i love his work, for something different from this film check out a good man in africa, an oldie but a goodie). Rachel blake also did a good job of fitting into a role that was hard to distinguish and the secondary homeless people were also played in a believable and hard hitting way.
"Tom White" has been given only a very limited release in Australia,
and this coupled with its unrelenting grimness means it may not achieve
success it deserves.
It's a very fine film, perhaps the best and most substantial Australian film for some time. It's refreshing to find an Australian film that's not cutely folksy or condescending to its characters, subject matter or audience.
The script falters occasionally but is generally tight and convincing. The
photography is stunningly beautiful. Direction and acting are also outstanding and deserve to collect several AFI Awards. Besides Friels' stunning starring role, Hunter and Blake merit special mention . Several other small roles offer varying delights in a film that's both episodic yet well structured in its depiction of the picaresque descent from middle class respectability of the eponymous hero.
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