Quality observation in no-frills suburban drama

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Boxing Day: 82 minutes. Rated: MA. Director: Kriv Stenders. Starring: Richard Green, Tammy Anderson, Syd Brisbane, Stuart Clark, Misty Sparrow

Boxing dayWhile technically difficult, extended takes allow for a distinctive style of filmmaking. The margin for error is minimal, but the incessancy of the camera's gaze means any character within its line of sight is subject to unforgiving and relentless scrutiny.

Films that unfold in real time are equally distinctive. They require careful distribution of exposition and action in order to sustain audience interest, and much in the way of non-verbal detail to flesh out the characters' stories beyond the events of the narrative.

This low-budget Australian film combines both methods for a simmering fly-on-the-wall documentary-style drama that seeks hope and forgiveness against a low-income suburban landscape, and also contributes to the broader story of reconciliation.

It was shot using minimal, inconspicuous camera cuts, giving the impression that the entire film is a single continuous shot. So there is little relief for either the characters or the audience as indigenous ex-con Chris (played by co-screenwriter Green) hosts a Boxing Day gathering that will either make or break his newly reformed life.

And it takes place in real time, so that every scene and frame is milked for its contribution to the story and the film's thematic makeup.

Chris, clean and sober for some time, has been looking forward to the visit of his ex-wife Donna (Anderson) and their teenage daughter Brooke (Sparrow) for Boxing Day lunch. But before they arrive, he receives an unexpected visit from a former partner in crime, Owen (Clark), who tries unsuccessfully to drag Chris back into his drug-dealing ways.

Owen is clearly a destructive force in Chris' life, and lands one final blow before Chris is finally able to be rid of him — Brooke and Donna arrive with Donna's new partner Dave (Brisbane), and Owen informs Chris that he recognises Dave as a known pedophile.

Overcome with fear for Brooke's safety and furious at the prospect that he may be already too late to protect her, Chris must choose between seeking violent retribution against Dave, or finding new, constructive ways to negotiate his emotions and decide upon his actions.

His choice will determine the success of both his personal reformation, and his relationship with Brooke.

Chris is Brooke's biological uncle, although since her real father (Chris' brother) died when she was young, culturally and practically he's her father. But his sordid past has left their relationship fractured at best; a sense of indigenous cultural displacement echoes through the fissures in their familial bond, just as it echoes in the hallways of Chris' home.

It would be a disservice, however, to reduce any element of this superbly executed, well-observed and harrowing no-frills film to an archetype or symbol.

Each character (excepting, perhaps, Owen, (who comes off like a parody of Mark ‘Chopper' Read) has nuance and dimension; Green in particular is a revelation as Chris, who represents one aspect of the contemporary experience of indigenous Australians, but also broils with all the pain, joy and depth of humanity.


Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is the Assistant Editor of Eureka Street.

 

 

 

 

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If you wish to contact the email above we can arrange a copy of the song. Yes i wrote Ebony, it is my song. Thank you for enjoying the movie, i have only just been informed of your inquiring about Ebony. If you seen Boxing Day, i was also the drama turg on Snowtown and played Barry Lane in the feature.

R.GREEN
richard green | 29 June 2011


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