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Carl Schultz adaptation of the play of Australian David Williamson benefits from the casting of Leo McKern as Frank, described as a "rude despotic arrogant bully", his bluster overcoming a few too many sunsets and pictaresque vistas accompanied by classical music.
Schultz has opened out the play so that we get long stretches without dialogue, and the treatment only feels stagebound when we hear about the childhood resentments of the daughters of Frank's companion Frances (Julia Blake), whom Frank amusingly calls Goneril and Regan (being tow of the daughters of King Lear). The narrative never shows us how Frank and Frances meet, rather beginning with Frank's retirement from being a civil engineer and their decision to travel north ie move from Melbourne to Port Douglas, a tropical rainforest area located on the coast of Queensland. However as the title also alludes to death, Frank suffering from angina telegraphes the end.
Williamson's wit includes lines like "I had a cousin who shot himself in Melbourne. Yes, it can affect one that way", "The fact that a man fought for his country is no excuse for him to behave like a cretin when he gets back", "I may be old. I'm not defunct", "The last fish that came out of the lake was so lonely it gave itself up", and regarding a heart monitor "A circuit blew this morning. I thought I died". Frank gets a repeated line "While I've loved mankind in general, I've been thoughtless to some of those I've been involved with in particular" in reference to his former wife and later, Frances.
If Frances' character is disappointingly thinly drawn, Williamson does give her daughter Sophie (Diane Craig) a funny drunk scene in a restaurant, and as Frances' other daughter, Helen, Michelle Fawdon gets a laugh from her prim disapproval of Frank. Schultz also makes Henri Szeps as Frank's doctor Saul affable, and their scenes together amusing in Frank's beligerence. As their Port Douglas neighbour, Freddie, Graham Kennedy has little to do though still conveys a touching loneliness.
The film is pleasant without being dramatically challenging, and not sentimental in it's embrace of Frank, whose final image is rather odd.
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