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Australia 2007
Directed by
Kriv Stenders
82 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Boxing Day

Synopsis: Chris (Richard Green) is an indigenous man recently out of prison and on a home detention order. He is preparing a Christmas dinner (on Boxing Day) for his daughter, Brooke (Misty Sparrow), her mother Donna (Tammy Anderson) and Donna’s man, Dave (Syd Brisbane). When an old jail mate Owen (Stuart Clark) turns up, Chris’s day takes a turn for the worse. 

Prepare to be stressed, depressed but generally held in thrall by this impressive low-budget film. Director Kriv Stenders takes a non-orthodox approach to the shooting and scripting of this film. The script (or “scriptment” as the production team prefer to call it) is based upon stories actor Green heard during his three stints in jail. He and Stenders collaborated for a year on various drafts, using only sample dialogue and loose plot ideas, but much was left up to the cast to improvise in the final shoot. Made on digital video, the film attempts to be one continuous shot in real time although because of the logistics of shooting it ends up with cuts,although only 12 of them.

The entire cast are so immersed in their characters that we feel as if we were observing real life and this of course makes everything that happens all the more powerful. Thus we have the camera following Chris through his day from its relatively peaceful beginning through to its heartfelt conclusion. Every small action is painstakingly tracked – his methodical cleaning of the kitchen, careful dressing for the big occasion, and nervous strumming on his guitar while waiting for the visitors. The film cleverly avoids traditional musical scoring but instead focuses upon natural sounds – those of birds, street noises, and other sounds that place the action firmly in its suburban setting. It’s a highly effective device.

Impressive formal features aside, it’s the emotional wallop of this film that really hits home. Green gives an outstanding performance as the conflicted, agonised uncle and surrogate father to Brooke. It is so heart-wrenching to see the emotional struggle he goes through, firstly when Owen brings drugs and booze into the home, things that have been Chris’s undoing in the past, and later when he tries desperately to achieve some closeness with Brooke. In some scenes he speaks to her in an indigenous tongue and despite their being no subtitles we instinctively know what he is saying.

All the cast, from the non-actor Sparrow as Brooke through to experienced Brisbane as Dave give wonderful performances. In one scene where Donna talks to her sister on the mobile phone, I was convinced this was a real conversation.  Such is the power of top notch improv. In real life Clark who plays Owen also comes from a jail background whilst Catriona Hadden as Cathy, Chris’s prison rehab advisor, works in that precise area.

As a picture of prisoner rehabilitation, urban Aboriginal life and family estrangement, Boxing Day really opens one’s eyes in a power-packed but sympathetic way, making you feel the pain and the plight of those trying to repair their lives.




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