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Australian films are often criticised for their bleakness, too often exploring dark material but when a bleak film is as moving and effective as 'Blessed' you have to question what people are complaining about.
Set in two parts, the film follows a group of displaced youth and then their mothers, who wait anxiously for their return. Confronting and powerful, this is a poignant examination of relationships - delving into communication, intimacy, sexuality, survival and maternal instincts.
Following a complex set of characters, the various narrative threads are interwoven with skill. What could have been disjointed flows and peaks perfectly. Performances are tops although, as with a lot of Australian films, it is obvious that many of the actors are trained in theatre and over articulate their lines. Whilst this is distracting early on, it isn't a bad thing for the overall intensity of the piece. The camera is kept very close to the actors (unflattering so), capturing something human in each and every one of them. The visuals in the film are brash, but mesmerising and combined with a memorable and subtly moving score 'Blessed' a resonant piece of art.
The final shot of the film was one of the most haunting I've ever seen, packing a huge emotional punch. I've always been a fan of Francis O'Connor (Artificial Intelligence, Mansfield Park), but her portrayal of a chain-smoking, seemingly cold mother was a breakthrough. Likewise, Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings, War of the Worlds) was completely believable and compelling.
'Blessed' tackles its themes with a real, unrelenting brutality, making it a jarring experience initially, but it soon evolves into a thoroughly gripping, gut-wrenching, tightly wound drama that captures genuine pain.
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