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Australia 2000
Directed by
Vincent Giarrusso
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Shaun (Kane McNay) is a fifteen-year-old school drop-out whose life consists mainly of hanging out with friends at the local shopping mall and stealing stuff, selling and taking drugs and dodging his well-meaning youth worker.  He lives at home with his slatternly mother, Jen (Nell Feeney) and two lumpy sisters, one whom is pregnant.  The plot such as it is, centres on the return of Shaun’s father, Pete (Brett Swain), whom Shaun idolizes, from prison, and a party that Jen organizes to celebrate.

The one and only film by writer/director Vincent Giarrusso, Mallboy is very much in the marginalized territory of Mike Leigh’s works but without social realism’s tendency to sentimentality and didacticism. Precisely because it feels so real ( the film is set in Preston, a northern suburb of Melbourne and uses all local settings) Mallboy is not an easy film to watch  - the character’s lives are depressingly devoid of a horizon and Giarrusso portrays the crudity with unfailing accuracy, though not without humour. The party scene in which Jen and her friends dance to Suzi Quatro’s “Can The Can” shortly before descending into a drunken brawl is frighteningly funny

Feeney and McNay, who both come from a background in television are both outstanding.  Jen is a horror, a lying, chain-smoking slag who takes her daughters shoplifting. Shaun as they say, is an apple fallen not far from the tree. Yet for all his bad behaviour, Giarrusso invests him with something more – a vague intuition that there is more to life than this. It is not an unusual  device (Ursula Meier’s 2012 film, Sister, would explore similar territory) but it is brought off completely convincingly. Even Jen by the film's end shows some glimmer of genuine feeling.

Giarrusso who was guitarist with rock band The Underground Lovers wrote the well-judged score with fellow member Glenn Bennie whilst the film also benefits from the sound design by Philip Brophy.




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