A Good Man

Cheerful stoicism buttresses a surprisingly upbeat relationship between a wannabe brothel owner and his quadriplegic wife.

With:
With: Chris Rohrlach, Rachel Rohrlach, Kieron Rohrlach, Trevor Rohrlach, June Rohrlach.

Cheerful stoicism buttresses a surprisingly upbeat relationship between a wannabe brothel owner and his quadriplegic wife in the beguiling documentary “A Good Man.” Offering frequent belly laughs but respecting a rural family’s plight, the pic reps itinerant helmer Safina Uberoi’s follow-up to her much-laureled Oz docu, “My Mother India.” No-frills effort will be embraced by fests and pubcasters far and wide; an hourlong TV version is skedded to air Down Under later this year.

First established as a grazier in Inverell, New South Wales, Chris Rohrlach is seen carrying his paralyzed, brain-damaged wife, Rachel, home to bed after she has given birth to their second child. Talking-head interviews with the couple’s parents reveal Rachel had a stroke days after she and Chris became engaged. Despite expectations to the contrary, Chris made good on his matrimonial commitments; Rachel surprised everyone by outlasting predictions of her life expectancy. (When the docu began filming, Chris and Rachel had been married 14 years.)

However, medical bills and a financially crippling drought have forced Chris to take a surprising solution to their money woes: legal prostitution. The local community is opposed to the business venture, erroneously believing it will be Inverell’s first brothel.

Docu spends most of its time interviewing the extended Rohrlach family as they build the brothel (which is to be serviced by workers recruited from Sydney via a classified ad): “We don’t want to be known as a house of ill repute; we want to be a house of good repute,” Chris quips. The portrait of an unusual, loving and functional family is a mostly joyful experience. Sadness and pain are never denied, just accepted and endured.

An interview with the couple’s 13-year-old son, Kieron, as he speaks of growing up with an incapacitated mother, lingers in the memory. In others, as Rachel looks on or rolls her eyes to indicate agreement, helmer Uberoi unflinchingly depicts the woman’s rich emotional life and raw pain.

Always off camera, Uberoi proves a sensitive interviewer; she’s helped by her d.p., real-life husband Himman Dhamija, a long way here from his gigs on glossy Bollywood extravaganzas like “Chandni Chowk to China” and “Bluffmaster.” DigiBeta lensing looks passable on the bigscreen.

A Good Man

Australia

Production: A Divana Films production, in association with Screen Australia, Australian Broadcasting Corp. Television, Adelaide Film Festival. (International sales: Divana Films, Sydney.) Produced by Himman Dhamija, Safina Uberoi, Jenny Day. Executive producer, David Jowsey. Directed by Safina Uberoi.

Crew: Camera (color, Digibeta), Himman Dhamija; editor, Nick Beaumann; music, the Alcohotlicks. Reviewed at Sydney Film Festival, June 6, 2009. (Also in SilverDocs Film Festival.) Running time: 78 MIN.

With: With: Chris Rohrlach, Rachel Rohrlach, Kieron Rohrlach, Trevor Rohrlach, June Rohrlach.

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