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.