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Australia 2017
Directed by
Tori Garrett
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Don't Tell

Synopsis; A young woman (Sara West), sexually abused while a border at a private girls’ school in Toowoomba, Queensland, is determined to bring those responsible to account. Local lawyer Stephen Roche (Aden Young) takes her case.

It is often pointed out that the problem with Australian films is not their quality but their lack of marketing. Tori Garrett’s film which has received limited release on the back of seemingly zero promotion  is certainly a case in point.  Although adhering closely to the parameters of the Hollywood  courtroom drama  precisely because it does so, it deserves to find an audience who would be well-rewarded by a skilfully-turned instance of the genre with an Australian A-list cast including Jack Thompson, Rachel Griffiths, Suzie Porter and Aden Young.  As it is, it will probably die of neglect although hopefully its success in capturing the tenor of provincial Australia will give it purchase overseas.

Adapted from an autobigraphical book by Queensland solicitor Stephen Roche Don’t Tell concerns a landmark legal case involving sexual abuse at an Anglican private school in Toowoomba in 1990, The film tells how in 2001, having lost his previous sex abuse case after his young client took her own life, Roche agrees to represent Lyndal, who had been abused ten years earlier by a housemaster, Kevin Guy (Gyton Grantley). Guy is dead, having committed suicide and the potential scandal has been buried by the school but Lyndal is determined that the truth should be known.

All the elements of the David and Goliath courtroom drama are here both in terms of plot and characters – Aden Young’s struggling lawyer who keeps returning to the fray though the case seems to be slipping out of his hands, Jack Thompson’s pragmatic barrister who advises him to settle but whose heart of gold ticks away beneath his worldly demeanour, the calculating defense barrister (played ruthlessly by Jacqueline McKenzie), the stonewalling Establishment, Sara Ward’s damaged, volatile young victim and so on are all part of a familiar typology. Equally familiar is the way the story unfolds with Roche from a reluctant beginning doggedly building the case with the help of his (surprisingly chic) paralegal (Ashlee Lollback), the de rigeur set-backs and, of course, the eleventh hour turnaround. Familiar stuff this may be but also its very effectively done.  And isn’t that what matters to a cinema audience?  

Anne Brooksbank and Ursula Cleary’s script deftly adapts Roche’s account to the cortroom drama template (though the business about Roche putting everything on the line to take Lyndal’s case could have been strengthened to good effect) and whilst director Tori Garrett whose previous work has all been in television has a tendency to overstate her case in striving for dramatic effect, she largely moves proceedings along efficiently and this is perfectly appropriate to the end-focussed requirements of the courtroom drama. Performances are all strong with Young and Thompson providing a first class double act and West, recently seen playing a teen-with-attitude in Bad Girl,is well-cast.

I saw this film on its day of release at an afternoon session with three other people in attendance. Not a sign that augers well. If you need to up your quota of Australian film-going this film should make for a good choice but don’t wait. Unfortunately I can’t see it being in cinemas for very long.




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