Current Issue #488

Film Review:
Heart and Bones

Ben Lawrence’s début feature has its flaws but also offers a great deal of heart, as well as some complex and troubling commentary upon the plight of the world’s refugees (something like 65 million and counting – and counting). 

Co-writer, co-producer and director Ben (son of the great Ray Lawrence of Bliss, Lantana and Jindabyne) does well casting Hugo Weaving as the chief protagonist, but he’s matched by Sudanese Australian Andrew Luri, who had never acted before, but nevertheless manages a quiet yet memorable performance combining warmth, compassion, anguish, rage and self-loathing.

Hugo’s Dan Fisher is a Sydney-based war photographer introduced in the expected but still shocking opening sequence, and when he returns home it’s obvious that his experiences have deeply damaged him. There have been other films about photojournalists desensitised by looking through the lens (like the Juliette Binoche-starring 1,000 Times Good Night), but here Dan is increasingly unable to distance himself from the terrible things he’s seen, and his partner Josie Avril (Hayley McElhinney) is continually pushed away.

An exhibition of Fisher’s photographs is being planned and he unwillingly agrees to a Radio National interview with Fran Kelly (briefly as herself), and this is heard by taxi driver Sebastian Ahmed (Luri). Sebastian then pursues Dan, eventually convincing him to join a community group which is ostensibly a refugee men’s choir but doubles as a chance for them all to open up about their post-traumatic stress.

Although Dan is struggling to deal with his own demons, he allows Sebastian to look through his pictures, and this brings Sebastian’s own long-repressed memories to the surface, and while this causes a few improbabilities in the script we feel his pain anyway. And Josie and Sebastian’s wife Anishka (Bolude Watson) stand by helplessly, unable to fully understand and desperate for these men to talk.

It goes without saying that we can guess, to a point, how this dark human drama will work out, and yet Lawrence demands that we remember that the refugee crisis is never, ever resolved with an unexpected final sequence set to the tune of an ‘80s classic turned unforgettably on its head.

Reviewer Rating

Hearts And Bones (M) is now available on demand, with the DVD out on 3 June

DM Bradley

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