Story of a teenage rugby talent forced to look after his younger brother is a familiar tale of working-class woes and insurmountable domestic odds that largely redeems itself thanks to an affable lead and some smart tech credits.

A kitchen-sink drama and an inspirational sports movie meet Down Under in Pene Patrick’s kidpic, “Playing for Charlie.” Story of a teenage rugby talent forced to look after his younger brother is a familiar tale of working-class woes and insurmountable domestic odds that largely redeems itself thanks to an affable lead and some smart tech credits. Pic will find itself a home in Oz, in fests slots aimed at kids and on the tube.

Recently widowed Paula (Jodie Rimmer, adequate), who suffers from multiple sclerosis, works overtime, leaving teen son Tony (Jared Daperis, a natural) little choice but to look after younger bro Charlie (Charlotte Zerna) in her absence. This makes group training difficult for Tony, although his coach, Joe (Shane Connor), really believes in him. Mom being impossible, Tony looks to his criminally inclined half-brother (Mark Leonard Winter, gruff) for help, with predictable results. The Joe-Paula relationship and big-game finale are handled in a nicely understated way. Color on print caught had a rather washed-out look, but pic’s alternation between shallow and deep focus adds some visual oomph. Score by Lisa Gerrard (“Gladiator”) is wonderfully atmospheric.

Playing for Charlie

Australia

Production

A Queen Ant Films production. (International sales: Queen Ant, Melbourne.) Produced by Franziska Wagenfeld. Executive producer, Gordon Patrick. Directed, written by Pene Patrick.

Crew

Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Leilani Hannah; editor, Ken Sallows; music, Lisa Gerrard; production designer, Julie Nelson; costume designer, Zed Dragojlovich. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (Alice in the Cities -- competing), Oct. 23, 2008. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Jared Daperis, Jodie Rimmer, Shane Connor, Mark Leonard Winter, Charlotte Zerna.
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