Keri turns up unannounced at the family home four days before Christmas. His parents, Brian and Loma, have long given up on a dream retirement as their savings have been whittled away by financially supporting their family. Loma is close to a breakdown with the stress, and her relationship with Brian has been reduced to a series of well worn rituals. Their eldest daughter, Megan, is living in their basement with her two children, Faith and Moses, and her boyfriend Brett, the father of her daughter Faith. Moses is from an earlier failed relationship and is only tolerated by Brett. Megan is an obsessive character who believes that she is the only one who does anything about the house and is jealous of the attention that the others seem to get. As the film unfolds we see the depth of her struggle and disappointments in life. The other daughter, Donna, is an enigmatic character through the early parts of the film. She is isolated; silently smoking outside, or picking at her food in the ... Written by
NZ Film Commission
Brave, powerful, raw Kiwi domestic drama with universal resonance
First up, if you are looking for an antidote to Hollywood saccharine bullshit, this is for you. Not even so-called independent US cinema comes within a million miles of this film for stark, raw, bleeding emotion, and portrayal of physical and mental despair and decay. Not even the great UK film 'Nil By Mouth', a previous bench-mark for harrowing examination of the human condition, matches this for intensity.
If all that makes it sound like hard work to be avoided, don't get me wrong - this is an utterly compelling film with universal resonance. There are moments of grim humour that balance the intense darkness which engulfs the protagonists, and although one might come away feeling soiled, as a guilty voyeur might feel, at no point do you doubt the truth of the characters and the world revealed.
As a piece of film-making this is a bravura achievement that inspires enormous respect. The acting by a virtually amateur cast is simply mind-blowing.
To my mind this is Punk film-making - quick, low-budget but incredibly rich in emotion and commitment - the true essence of great punk (and great art, for that matter). This is not just a primal scream of angst. Writer/director Gregory King has created and breathed life into a whole extended family of characters, each with her or his distinct personality and inner demons, and each interacts, or not, with the others in a totally believable way.
Punk indeed. Pared down, stripped to its basics, this is all the more powerful for it. Where 'Nil By Mouth' had an unfolding storyline, character development and the sweet salve of redemption, there's no such indulgence here. Here the action is confined to a house and yard, and silences as significant as the rages are held to the point where we almost scream ourselves.
If we come to relate to the characters at all, it's not on a personal level, nor is it at the other extreme, the way we might be interested in insects in a display-case. It's more perhaps as a compassionate god might, with a sigh of recognition, an acceptance of responsibility and a feeling of non-judgmental love.
Underlying all the painful failures to cope, there is the great irony that the action takes place against a backdrop of meaningless babble on the radio and TV (not to mention Christmas itself), which subtly poses the question: is there any less emptiness in the wider society outside the claustrophobic confines of this particular family home? What appears at first to be a family of misfits may in fact be closer to 'normal' than we dare think.
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