Road to Nhill

The closing-night feature at this year's Melbourne film fest, "Road to Nhill" is a handsomely produced, laconic, very Australian comedy that centers on a bunch of small-town denizens involved in a bizarre accident. Filled with amiable characters, beautifully cast and acted, this is nevertheless a film of small pleasures and hardly sustains its modest running time. Moderate returns can be expected in Oz, with fest exposure the best way to attract smaller distribs internationally.

With:
Bob ..... Bill Hunter Margot ..... Lynette Curran Nell ..... Monica Maugham Jean ..... Patricia Kennedy Carmel ..... Lois Ramsey Jim ..... Tony Barry Maurie ..... Paul Chubb Brian Broad ..... Bill Young Jack ..... Alwyn Kurts Constable Bret Whitton ..... Matthew Dyktynski Ted ..... Terry Norris Jill Whitton ..... Vikki Blanche Gwen ..... Denise Roberts Alice ..... Kerry Walker Voice of God ..... Phillip Adams

The closing-night feature at this year’s Melbourne film fest, “Road to Nhill” is a handsomely produced, laconic, very Australian comedy that centers on a bunch of small-town denizens involved in a bizarre accident. Filled with amiable characters, beautifully cast and acted, this is nevertheless a film of small pleasures and hardly sustains its modest running time. Moderate returns can be expected in Oz, with fest exposure the best way to attract smaller distribs internationally.

This first feature is evidently a labor of love for its filmmaking team of director Sue Brooks, writer Alison Tilson and producer Sue Maslin, who have honed their skills on short films, docus and TV drama. Pic has something of the same brand of quintessential Aussie humor as recent local hit “The Castle,” though it’s not as plot-driven, and the middle-aged and elderly rural types featured here will be less readily identifiable to city cinemagoers. An added B.O. disadvantage is the fact that only a couple of characters in the ensemble are under the age of 40.

Setting is a small, isolated town populated by a community whose horizons are , to say the least, limited. One afternoon the place is thrown into confusion when a car containing four members of the local bowling club — driver Margot (Lynette Curran), Nell (Monica Maugham), Jean (Patricia Kennedy) and Carmel (Lois Ramsey) — runs off the road and overturns, trapping the women inside.

First on the scene is Maurie (Paul Chubb), a slow-witted pig farmer, who alerts the Emergency Services. Volunteers spring into action, and two fire engines speed to the crash scene, one containing Carmel’s husband, Ted (Terry Norris). But the local police constable is nowhere to be found, and the ambulance heads off in entirely the wrong direction, due to confusion over whether the accident happened on the road to Nhill (pronounced “nil”) or on Nhill Road.

Maurie and local vegetable grower Brian (a hilarious Bill Young) prove inept at handling the crisis, but somehow the four women struggle out of the crashed vehicle themselves. Margot’s apparent g.f., Alice (Kerry Walker), isn’t amused by Brian’s awkward attempts to ingratiate himself with Margot. Eventually Bret the cop (Matthew Dyktynski) emerges from the bedroom of the farmer’s wife, last to arrive at the site of the incident.

Storyline is modest indeed, but thanks to sharply etched characters and fine ensemble performances, the film is mostly pleasurable and chucklesome. Director Brooks and scripter Tilson have a sharp ear for the Australian vernacular, but it is questionable if audiences overseas will appreciate the jokes. At times pic adopts a rather patronizing attitude toward its gormless yokels and befuddled old-timers, but the actors inhabit their roles so effectively that misgivings are kept pretty much at bay.

Especially notable in a generally excellent ensemble are Young’s accident-prone Brian, Alwyn Kurts’ forgetful Jack, Tony Barry’s tenacious Jim, Walker’s protective Alice, Chubb’s distracted Maurie and Kennedy’s bewildered Jean. Bill Hunter is solid in the extraneous role of narrator. Even more extraneous, and a major miscalculation, is the voiceover narration, presumably the Voice of God, used at intervals. This disembodied being, powerfully voiced by columnist- broadcaster (and former film producer) Phillip Adams, intones loftily about death and destiny, but seems to belong to another, far more pretentious, movie.

Tech credits are uniformly excellent, particularly the solid camerawork of Nicolette Freeman, who uses frequent aerial shots to pinpoint locations of the various characters who miss connecting with one another with alarming regularity. Elizabeth Drake’s bouncy, repetitive music score is a useful addition to this modest, flawed, but generally engaging production.

Road to Nhill

(AUSTRALIAN)

Production: A Ronin Films (Australia) release of a Gecko Films production, in association with the Australian Film Commission, Film Victoria. Produced by Sue Maslin. Directed by Sue Brooks. Screenplay, Alison Tilson.

Crew: Camera (Cinevex color), Nicolette Freeman; editor, Tony Stevens; music, Elizabeth Drake; production design, Georgina Campbell; art direction, Allison Pye; costumes, Louise McCarthy; sound, Mark Tarpey; assistant directors, Chris Lynch, Steve Westh; casting, Dina Mann. Reviewed at Australian Film & TV School, Sydney, Aug. 10, 1997. (In Melbourne Film Festival.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Bob ..... Bill Hunter Margot ..... Lynette Curran Nell ..... Monica Maugham Jean ..... Patricia Kennedy Carmel ..... Lois Ramsey Jim ..... Tony Barry Maurie ..... Paul Chubb Brian Broad ..... Bill Young Jack ..... Alwyn Kurts Constable Bret Whitton ..... Matthew Dyktynski Ted ..... Terry Norris Jill Whitton ..... Vikki Blanche Gwen ..... Denise Roberts Alice ..... Kerry Walker Voice of God ..... Phillip Adams

More Film

  • Les Arcs Film Festival

    Les Arcs European Film Festival's Industry Village Kicks Off with Strong Roster

    The closing-night feature at this year’s Melbourne film fest, “Road to Nhill” is a handsomely produced, laconic, very Australian comedy that centers on a bunch of small-town denizens involved in a bizarre accident. Filled with amiable characters, beautifully cast and acted, this is nevertheless a film of small pleasures and hardly sustains its modest running […]

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    Box Office: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Rockets to $215 Million Opening Weekend

    The closing-night feature at this year’s Melbourne film fest, “Road to Nhill” is a handsomely produced, laconic, very Australian comedy that centers on a bunch of small-town denizens involved in a bizarre accident. Filled with amiable characters, beautifully cast and acted, this is nevertheless a film of small pleasures and hardly sustains its modest running […]

  • Disney-Fox Deal Sets Up Scramble for

    Disney-Fox Deal Unleashes Flood of Free-Agent Executives, Talent

    The closing-night feature at this year’s Melbourne film fest, “Road to Nhill” is a handsomely produced, laconic, very Australian comedy that centers on a bunch of small-town denizens involved in a bizarre accident. Filled with amiable characters, beautifully cast and acted, this is nevertheless a film of small pleasures and hardly sustains its modest running […]

  • Anita Hill

    Anita Hill Chairs Hollywood Anti-Sexual Harassment Commission Formed by Top Execs

    The closing-night feature at this year’s Melbourne film fest, “Road to Nhill” is a handsomely produced, laconic, very Australian comedy that centers on a bunch of small-town denizens involved in a bizarre accident. Filled with amiable characters, beautifully cast and acted, this is nevertheless a film of small pleasures and hardly sustains its modest running […]

  • Warren Beatty

    Arnon Milchan Sues Warren Beatty Over 'Rules Don't Apply' Flop

    The closing-night feature at this year’s Melbourne film fest, “Road to Nhill” is a handsomely produced, laconic, very Australian comedy that centers on a bunch of small-town denizens involved in a bizarre accident. Filled with amiable characters, beautifully cast and acted, this is nevertheless a film of small pleasures and hardly sustains its modest running […]

  • Oscar Isaac Addams Family

    Oscar Isaac in Talks to Voice Gomez Addams in Animated 'Addams Family' Movie

    The closing-night feature at this year’s Melbourne film fest, “Road to Nhill” is a handsomely produced, laconic, very Australian comedy that centers on a bunch of small-town denizens involved in a bizarre accident. Filled with amiable characters, beautifully cast and acted, this is nevertheless a film of small pleasures and hardly sustains its modest running […]

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Publicists for Jennifer Lawrence, Daisy Ridley, Amy Adams Form New Firm

    The closing-night feature at this year’s Melbourne film fest, “Road to Nhill” is a handsomely produced, laconic, very Australian comedy that centers on a bunch of small-town denizens involved in a bizarre accident. Filled with amiable characters, beautifully cast and acted, this is nevertheless a film of small pleasures and hardly sustains its modest running […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content