Multiple stories intersect to middling effect in the Aussie social-realist drama “Cross Life.” Set during Christmas Eve in Sydney’s bohemian Kings Cross locale, helmer Claire McCarthy’s debut launches with a promising collection of characters and situations but, while never exactly dull, doesn’t quite hit the stride required for its strands to dynamically coalesce. Realized with palpable care by all concerned, ultra-low-budgeter has a shot at local arthouse distribution, with foreign exposure likely to be restricted to fest dates.
A community training program that evolved into a collaborative feature project, pic opens with half a dozen storylines crisply marshaled into place. Roster of interesting strangers includes Bill (veteran thesp Tony Barry), a father taking his son to get laid on his 16th birthday; Trace (Danielle Rohweder), a starry-eyed, cash-strapped wannabe actress working behind the bar in a strip joint-cum-brothel; Zana (Imogen Annesley), a thirtysomething desperate to become a mother; Rachel (Elaine Hudson), an overworked doctor with an errant son; and Joe (Paul Caesar), whose heavily pregnant junkie g.f. requires medical attention.
Vividly realistic in its general depiction of how life is lived among the radically diverse population of Kings Cross, the pic is less successful with the nuts-and-bolts task of generating urgency from the criss-crossing of its protags. Editing itself is fine, but some underwritten characters and lapses into prosaic dialogue are a hindrance to narrative propulsion and auds’ emotional investment.
Despite these shortcomings and some uncertain thesping by inexperienced performers, the film scores very well in a number of isolated sections, particularly those involving the unbalanced Zana’s friendship with cheeky young girl Jessie (Kate Mifsud).
Visuals by d.p. Robert Agganis on a mini-DV camera fitted with 35mm lenses are appropriately gritty and impressively intuitive. Atmospheric piano and synth-dominated score is subtly applied. Rest of the tech package is pro.