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Travelling Light

Adelaide, South Australia, in 1971 was a boring place to be young according to writer-director Kathryn Millard, who was raised there. But for her first full-length feature, Millard is unable to make her subject -- the frustrations of a group of young people stuck in this backwater -- very interesting, despite some decent thesping.

Adelaide, South Australia, in 1971 was a boring place to be young according to writer-director Kathryn Millard, who was raised there. But for her first full-length feature (after the 51-minute “Parklands,” made in 1996, which marked the screen debut of Cate Blanchett and was also about the blandness of Adelaide), Millard is unable to make her subject — the frustrations of a group of young people stuck in this backwater — very interesting, despite some decent thesping. Box office results will be distinctly modest with current festival exposure unlikely to result in positive word of mouth.

Millard and her design team have gone to great pains to recreate the quaint environment that was, apparently, Adelaide at a time when much of the rest of Australia, and the Western world, was undergoing profound changes in the wake of the sexual revolution. The film can’t be faulted in areas of costume, production and color design, and d.p. Tristan Milani has captured the sterile banality of the settings with numbing conviction. The trouble is that audiences are likely to be as bored as the characters are on screen.

Leanne Ferris (Pia Miranda, the talented young actress seen in Alex Proyas’ “Garage Days”) lives with her middle-class parents, Betty (Heather Mitchell) and Don (Marshall Napier) in a dull suburb. Leanne dreams of being a photographer,but she’s studying to be a schoolteacher.

Her older sister, Bronwyn (Sacha Horler) has already married, left home and is, if anything, even more bored than her sister.

Leanne hangs out with her best friend, Debra (Ann Torv), who wants to be an actress, and sometimes passes the time with the boy next door, Gary (Tim Draxl), who works as production assistant for a dreadful TV chat program.

The lives of these characters change for the better with the arrival in town of Lou Bonetti (Brett Stiller), an American beat poet, who introduces them to the world of drug-taking, mildly anti-social behavior and the possibility of sex. One of the crucial problems of the film is that Stiller never convinces as the breath of fresh air he’s supposed to be, even when it’s revealed he’s not really an American but, in fact, from Adelaide.

Despite lovely performances from Miranda and Torv as the two young women, Napier and Mitchell as the in-the-rut parents and Horler as the unhappy wife, the film never comes alive, and the dull performances given by the younger males in the cast are no help.

Travelling Light

Australia

  • Production: A Dendy Films release (in Australia) of a Film Finance Corp. Australia presentation in association with SBS Independent, NSW Film and TV Office, South Australian Film Corp. and Showtime Australia of a Toi Toi Films production. (International sales: Flache Pyramide, Paris.) Produced by Helen Bowden. Directed, written by Kathryn Millard.
  • Crew: Camera (Atlabcolor), Tristan Milani; editor, Stephen Evans; music, Richard Vella; production designer, Luigi Pittorino; art director, Juliet John; costume designer, David Rowe; sound (Dolby Digital), Sam Petty, James Currie; assistant director, Tom Read; casting, Nikki Barrett. Reviewed at Greater Union screening room, Sydney, July 31, 2003. (In Melbourne and Brisbane film festivals.) Running time: 88 MIN.
  • With: Leanne Ferris - Pia Miranda Bronwyn White - Horler Lou Bonetti - Brett Stiller Gary Wilkins - Tim Draxl Don Ferris - Marshall Napier Betty Ferris - Heather Mitchell Brian White - Tamblyn Lord Debra Fowler - Anna Torv Ray Sugars - Simon Burke Rhonda - Kestie Morassi Dee Gregory - Joanne Priest