Auds looking for raw-boned cinema of the Dogma variety are the likeliest takers for Aussie domestic drama "Boxing Day." Unfolding in real time during the post-Christmas Day gathering of a jumpy criminal and the family he's hoping to make peace with, pic is intense and uneven, but not without rewards for those willing to look it in the eye.

Auds looking for raw-boned cinema of the Dogma variety are the likeliest takers for Aussie domestic drama “Boxing Day.” Unfolding in real time during the post-Christmas Day gathering of a jumpy criminal and the family he’s hoping to make peace with, pic is intense and uneven, but not without rewards for those willing to look it in the eye. Unlikely to travel much beyond fests, the DV low-budgeter will need a committed local distributor to see any hardtop action prior to disc release.

World preemed at the Adelaide fest, Kriv Stenders’ third feature continues along the minimalist and collaborative path of his previous entry, “Blacktown.” Pic was filmed in several long takes seamlessly joined to give the impression of an unbroken shot, while dialogue was improvised by the cast from a story by Stenders and Richard Green. A real-life ex-con with a striking face, the Irish-Aboriginal Green also essays lead-thesp duties as Chris, a home detention prisoner and recovering alcoholic who wants to go straight.

Ambient sound is all that’s heard for the first 11 minutes as fidgety Chris prepares lunch in his bland suburban house. Silence is broken by the arrival of Owen (Stuart Clark), a criminal associate who wants to stash drugs on the premises. Theme of crooks imprisoned by their past rises quickly to the surface when Chris refuses to comply.

Uncomfortable atmosphere settles down temporarily with the arrival of Chris’ teenage daughter, Brooke (Misty Sparrow). The withdrawn girl immediately retreats to a bedroom, leaving ex-wife Donna (Tammy Anderson) and her eager-to-please new b.f., Dave (Syd Brisbane), to take up the awkward conversational slack.

Taking Chris aside, Owen says Dave is a child molester he recognizes from stir. Despite reasonable doubts about the source, the prickly thought won’t go away as the afternoon descends into squabbling on other matters.

Although the pic’s dramatic aspirations sometimes outstrip the performers’ grasp — Brisbane is the only pro on show — the film has a directness that remains absorbing. It also doesn’t limit its scope to the single issue of whether there’s a pedophile in the house. Carefully sown info about past events and family connections gives everyone the chance to reflect on sad lives and begin journeys to better stations.

Handheld camerawork moves efficiently around faces and chooses the right moments to let off-screen dialogue advance other plot threads. Fine soundtrack, rich in lo-fi rumblings, adds to the atmosphere of disquiet.

Boxing Day

Australia

Production

An Adelaide Film Festival presentation in association with Rising Sun Pictures of a Smoking Gun production of a Horrorshow film. (International sales: Smoking Gun, Adelaide.) Produced by Kristian Moliere. Executive producer, Wayne Lewis. Co-producer, Shane McNeil. Directed by Kriv Stenders. Story, Stenders, Richard Green.

Crew

Camera (color, HD cam), Stenders; editor, Gabriella Muir; production designer, Lisa Stonham; sound (stereo), James Currie; sound designers, Michael Bakaloff, Pete Best, Currie, Liam Price, Pete Smith; assistant director, Shane McNeil. Reviewed at Adelaide Film Festival, Feb. 23, 2007. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Richard Green, Tammy Anderson, Syd Brisbane, Misty Sparrow, Stuart Clark, Catriona Haddin.

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