Via Satellite

Chrissy Dunn/

Chrissy Dunn/

Carol Dunn ….. Danielle Cormack

Ken Thompson ….. Tim Balme

Jen Thompson ….. Rima Te Wiata

Brian Stanning ….. Brian Sergent

Lyn Dunn ….. Jodie Dorday

Paul ….. Karl Urban

Joyce Dunn ….. Donna Akersten

This modest Kiwi outing offers a few fresh twists to basically familiar material in which members of a dysfunctional family are forced into an uneasy reunion. Thanks to strong performances, especially from lead actress Danielle Cormack, pic builds to a satisfying, emotional climax. Anthony McCarten’s first feature should perform decently at home, but looks confined to small-screen exposure in foreign territories.

While Olympic swimmer Carol Dunn (Cormack) wins an important race on the other side of the world, her twin sister, Chrissy (also Cormack), drags herself out of a strange man’s bed. With Carol set to swim for gold later that day, her reluctant sibling finds herself involved in the plans of a local TV station to arrange a live satellite hookup in which the athlete — victorious, they hope — will be reunited with her proud family back home.

Chrissy’s problem is that she has little in common with her widowed mother, Joyce (Donna Akersten), and her older sisters, Jen (Rima Te Wiata) and Lyn (Jodie Dorday). Joyce lacks anything much in the way of personality (and is the film’s weakest character). Jen is married to the oafish Ken (amusing Tim Balme) and desperately wants to get pregnant, which makes her resentful of the younger Lyn, who is nine months pregnant but has never identified the father.

While TV director Brian (Brian Sergent) wearily sets about arranging for the satellite hookup, Chrissy, who has announced that she won’t cooperate in the broadcast, is taken in hand by TV cameraman Paul (Karl Urban), who turns out to be the man she slept with the night before.

The family undergoes plenty of comic misfortunes as the day wears on and the time for the all-important race nears. Family ties are threatened by a series of painful revelations, none of them entirely unexpected. Predictable as much of this material is, it’s to the credit of McCarten and his cast that the final scenes pack quite an emotional wallop, and bring the uneven film to a strong conclusion.

Cormack’s skilled playing as both the distressed Chrissy and the exhausted Carol contributes enormously to the film’s success.

Production values are exceedingly modest, with much of the drama unfolding in the Dunns’ suburban home; the material’s origins on the stage are evident in many scenes.

Via Satellite

(COMEDY-DRAMA -- NEW ZEALAND)

Production: A Portman presentation, in association with the New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand On Air and Film 2, of a Satellite Films production. (International sales: Portman Films.) Executive producers, Chris Brown, Chris Hampson. Produced by Philippa Campbell. Directed by Anthony McCarten. Screenplay, McCarten, Greg McGee, based on an original story by McCarten. Camera (Film Unit color), Simon Riera; editor, John Gilbert; music, David Bergeaud; production designer, Clive Memmott; costume designer, Chris Elliot; sound (Dolby), Ray Beentjes; line producer, Chris Tyson; assistant director, David Norris. Reviewed at Melbourne Film Festival, July 26, 1998. Running time: 89 MIN.

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