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aka - Sumner Locke Elliott's Careful He Might Hear You
Australia 1983
Directed by
Carl Schultz
110 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Careful He Might Hear You

Wendy Hughes made a decent career in the 1970s and '80s as a kind of Antipodean Ava Gardner and regularly appeared as an elegant and emotionally aloof single woman. Here she gives one of her best variations on the type as wealthy Anglophilic Aunt Vanessa who is locked in a battle with her working class sister (Robyn Nevin) for custody of their six-year-old nephew, P.S. (Nicholas Gledhill) whose mother has died. By and large we see events from the young boy's perspective as he is shunted between the two women. 

Sumner Locke Elliot's autobiographical novel set during the time of the Great Depression is given an at times melodramatic treatment by director Carl Schultz that particularly thanks to Ray Crook's overwrought score is quite enjoyable, its emotionality reminiscent of Hollywood's classic studio era, something which sets it apart from the more characteristically restrained Australian costume dramas of the time. (Joshua Logan, the American producer/director who originally held the rights to Elliot's novel had planned a version with Vivian Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor. choices which give you a good indication of the potential in the material here, something which Schultz doesn't quite realize, not that he had Hollywood's resources at his fingertips). 

The film with its meticulous art direction and John Seale's fine photography is visually impressive, carefully suggestive of P S.'s point-of-view and nostalgically evocative of the era when no-one was dressed if they weren't wearing a hat. The young Nicholas Gledhill is very effective as P.S. (he acted in a few more films subsequently, mainly on the small screen but was never really heard of again) but John Hargreaves is mis-cast as his errant father, having none of the dash and charm that would supposedly have attracted the neurotic, sexually-repressed Aunt Vanessa (Hargreaves and Hughes would be much better matched in Boundaries of The Heart, 1988)

Understandably, the film went on to win eight AFI awards including Best Film, a Best Actress for Hughes and Best Director for Schultz. 




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