Current Issue #488

Film Review:

This independent Australian production from first-time writer, director and producer Nick Conidi offers a strong performance from lead Antoniette Iesue, but that doesn’t quite compensate for its shortcomings.

While top billing is shared by Tina Arena (in a rare acting role) and the infrequently-seen Paul Mercurio, Promised actually belongs to relative newcomer Antoniette Iesue, who really looks like she could be Tina’s daughter and brings a little weight and sparkle to the stilted proceedings.

Drawn from some of Conidi’s own experience, this opens in 1953 when awkward circumstance leads two Italian children – five-year-old Robert and newborn Angela – being promised in future marriage by their respective Dads. We briefly cut to 1969 (where there’s a potential anachronism about Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather) and then 1974, where Angela is now a cool university student played by Iesue and getting into the radical political swing of the 1970s, especially after she reads Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch.

Angela knows that secretly seeing her boyfriend Tom (Santo Tripodi) will anger her Dad Sal (Mercurio), who still wants her to marry Robert (Daniel Berini), but she does it anyway, because she loves Tom and she believes that arranged marriages only happen in India. But Sal is dead serious about the old-school promise, although Mum Rosalba (Arena) is less convinced, particularly after she has a secret and goofy read of Eunuch.

There’s also a danger in defying Robert’s Dad Joe (Mirko Grillini), Angela’s Mafia-connected godfather, who lurks about menacingly and ensures that the plot takes exactly the turn that you’re expecting. No twists, tricks or turnarounds – just the same old thing. Again.

There is a migrant story here perhaps worth telling, as well as a study of changing socio-cultural mores and the rise of feminism, but it’s all so drably done that even the staunchest Aussie cinema groupie might struggle to care too much. And, it must be said, just because this is an Australian movie doesn’t mean that it must be celebrated, even when it’s this drearily average.

Promised (PG) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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