Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Month of Sundays

Review by © Jane Freebury

The hint of self-deprecating humour in the title of writer-director Matthew Saville's new film doesn’t cost him a thing. The expression may not be familiar to everyone, but you still get the general idea that it's no action-adventure. A movie about a man in mid-life conflicted about the nature of his work, divorced though not quite separated from his wife, alienated from his teenage son, feeling the loss of his mother who has recently died, and he's a real estate agent. Are we rubbing our hands with glee and anticipation?

The marvel is, that despite the implicit invitation to write it off as a yawn, A Month of Sundays is deft, smart, funny, and surprising, and told in a crisply edited and handsome visual style. We have now come to expect nothing less of filmmaker Saville, whose two first films, Noise and Felony, were impressive and distinctive and who directed episodes of the fine TV series The Slap.

Here he draws you into the world of property sales, a subject about which you would expect many Australians to hold strong views. Salesman Frank (Anthony LaPaglia) is estranged from the world outside, barely connected to self and inner feeling, as sales blurb and sales patter dominate his thoughts. He could be raking it in, but he is out of sorts, 'in a mood' as his boss says, and can't make the most of things. There have been at the movies a myriad men in mid-life crisis like Frank, however few will end up finding themselves again through a relationship with a woman old enough to be his mother.

His boss and sometime golf partner, Phillip (comedian John Clarke) doesn't seem to mind Frank's condition terribly, tolerating his depressed employee, making him the butt of his droll humour and trying to lift him out of his depression. Phillip is not so far removed from the persona of the satirist and comedian John Clarke who we know and enjoy, though the performance could have been a bit more nuanced.

As Frank dangles in the void, the practices of the realtor business come in for a sharply observed critique. It's very funny and will be appreciated by many a young couple who have struggled to make their deposit stretch to a purchase.

A chance encounter with Sarah (Julia Blake), briefly and improbably mistaken for his late mother, suddenly opens a new door. Julia Blake brings a delicacy and warmth to her role as Sarah. She lives alone, enjoys Sunday lunch with her son, and is very connected to others through her extensive collection of books, many of which are ex libris. Each person she knows is intimately associated with one of more of the items in her library.

You wouldn't think that an uncontroversial film like this could divide the critics, but it has. LaPaglia and Blake are exquisitely paired in this odd couple relationship and it is entertaining on many levels.
Once again, Saville has shown he knows how to approach  familiar genre  with subtlety, depth, and empathy. A Month of Sundays confirms a rising talent.

4 Stars

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