It tells the story of Romulus, his beautiful wife, Christina, and their struggle in the face of great adversity to bring up their son, Raimond. It is a story of impossible love that ultimately celebrates the unbreakable bond between father and son.
Raimond Gaita (1946 - ) comes of age in Frogmore, Victoria in the early 1960s. His parents are immigrants: his Romanian father farms; his German mother, Christina, estranged from Romulus, is in Melbourne. Romulus is near despair when she takes up with the brother of his best friend, who suggests he send for a new wife from back home. For Rai, poverty, bruises, and the mysterious ways of adults compete with his longing for a stable home and his own incipient puberty. Love and madness lie in the same bed. As an old woman tells Rai, "Sometimes what you reckon and what you get ain't the same thing."Written by
Arena Films in Sydney Australia have developed and produced some of the best small films made here in the last ten years. I have seen ROMULUS; I saw it at a media screening in Sydney mid April 2007. I understand the film will go into release in May 2007. Helmed by John Maynard and Robert Connolly, Arena are responsible for THE BANK, THE BOYS with David Wenham, and SWEETIE among their excellent library of films. However this time, I am delighted to say they have managed to create a film so genuinely superb, so astonishingly well cast and with a major turn as director by actor Richard Roxburgh, I find myself actually struggling for adequate superlatives as to not sound like I am overstating the quality and qualities of this profoundly satisfying and emotionally moving father/son relationship drama. Set in the early 1960s in rural Victoria Australia, it basically tells of the marriage difficulties of a migrant family from eastern Europe. It is the mother with wanderlust that causes the central emotional drama and ripples of overwhelming joy and despair as the men around her, husband his brother and her lovers, and including her 8 year old son Raimond, attempt to hold their extended family together, survive on a farm, and deal with her fracturing emotions. I was the same age as the boy in this film in 1961 and I lived in Sydney among many migrant families from Europe who had moved post WW2 to find a better life here. Many did but equally as many became bewildered in Australia, emotionally lost because they had lost the thread of their village life and European life/morality and found their freedom here created mental and moral abandon... they became lost and found the new country too huge too free and too full of emotional pitfalls: it was just too different: sunny and open yes, but no family bonds and not strong with religious ties. As a result emotional inertia and immorality and sometimes drink and violence took over; just as often was a nervous breakdown. ROMULUS charts all this with skill and motion like no other major new film in the last ten years has been able to do. David Elfick's 1993 film NO WORRIES maybe, or CAREFUL HE MIGHT HEAR YOU from 1983 are very close past emotional and critical successes; this film certainly surpasses them in the child's eye view of a marriage and a family collapse. The casting is just so perfect and I defy anyone to not to be absolutely transfixed at the young boy actor Kodi Smitt who is front and center at all times here. His performance is one of the great child acting performances in any film; period, ever. Richard Roxburgh as an actor is very good, but who knew (apart from savvy Connolly and Maynard) that he could create a visually breathtaking emotionally solid and superbly told story; so often in a dozen scenes he shows one more shot of Raimond just being, as a tail end of the scene and it caps every part of this film perfectly each time. ROMULUS sets a new standard for excellent emotional drama produced here are hopefully erases the bad credit and ill feelings of so many useless and lousy films produced here so far this century:. So many cinemas and their owners have been wringing their hands in despair at the poor results of so many terrible Oz films of late.
The good ones? try these: KENNY, THE BANK, RABBIT PROOF FENCE and THE OYSTER FARMER being the only real shining lights in a very dim recent release schedule. ROMULUS MY FATHER will go into history as one of Australia's best produced films and I personally hope it is loved and applauded Internationally as I expect it to be here.
On the down side: Arena have taken a serious risk in involving Arclight films in an executive production and sales partner role here; Arclight exec producers have been seen for over 10 years as being responsible for some of Australia's worst and most reviled and truly embarrassing films: often critically spewed upon and a complete waste of resources and reputation: for example: the vile cruel CUT or the disgusting WOLF CREEK or CUBBYHOUSE, or lame DECK DOGZ, or idiotic SHOTGUN WEDDING or nonevent BACK OF BEYOND or woeful EXCHANGE LIFEGUARDS are simply hated by the few viewers who wasted time on them or by cinemas who took a chance on them. The appalling WOLF CREEK is now credited with being the start of thew 'torture porn' cycle currently debasing cinemas and communities encouraged to see them (HOSTEL and HOSTEL PART 2 is a direct result of this awful movie)... so I hope Arena survive their relationship with Arclight.
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