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Australia 2008
Directed by
Simon MacRae / Ken MacRae
101 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The View From Greenhaven

Synopsis: Dash (Chris Haywood) is a grumpy old man living in a picturesque town on the South Coast of New South Wales. He virtually lives in his garden shed and ignores his wife, Dot (Wendy Hughes). When daughter Kate (Susan Prior) gives the couple an 40th anniversary gift of a mystery train their marital problems come to a head.

Reuniting Australian film renaissance alumni, Wendy Hughes and Chris Haywood, (who, most famously appeared together in Phillip Noyce’s Newsfront, 1978), The View From Greenhaven is a strong debut feature from writer/director brothers, Simon and Kenn MacRae. The first release from Movie Extra's Project Greenlight competition (which the brothers won in 2006) overall the film lies comfortably within the seniors comedy-drama sub-genre, the relationship between the two main protagonists recalling Carl Schultz’s Travelling North (1987), but it is distinguished by a real flair for the medium of film. The MacRae brothers not only show a good deal of visual style, with Mark Wareham’s camera delivering some seductive images of the classic Australian small town idyll, but, even more impressively, consistently realize the film’s sense of humour by visual means, such as Dash’s efforts at pruning a wayward bush or a unintended burp in a crowded lift.

Although the main arc of the script is familiar enough, and its feel-good agenda obvious from the get-go, its charm is in the well-observed detail and natural way in which story unfolds (only the film’s ending is questionable in this regard). More often amusing than most comedies, the humour never feels forced but is seamlessly integrated into the action. For example, early in the piece a joke involving a couple of biddies running the local gift shop is set up. Both risky and risqué, it is a worry but when it eventually comes the MacRae’s bring it off with breathtaking ease. The script is not entirely flawless, having trouble in particular integrating the supporting characters with the main subject of Dot and Dash’s foundering relationship, with most of them, despite initially making their mark, being marginalized as the story progresses.

The core of the film is the ennui of long-term marriage, Dot and Dash (and yes, the brothers bring off another funny scene involving these names) being in their fourth decade and the joie de vivre of their love, long since gone. Here both Hughes and Hayward carry the brunt of our attention and do so wonderfully. Hayward has the greater load, it being Dash’s curmudgeonly withdrawal from his wife and society in general that is the core problem, and he carries it off brilliantly, in a understated performance that never misses a beat. Hughes has less to do but in her case being is enough and she elicits a high degree of sympathy for her long-suffering wife. The support cast are all excellent with Steve Bisley and John Gregg standing out as the town's wryly laconic mechanics and Rhonda Doyle doing a wonderful job as the typical jolly fat lady.

The View From Greenhaven has arrived on our screens with little fanfare with a very limited release and will probably only find an audience within the superannuated end of the market but with its genial humour and comforting spirit, for anyone looking for a enjoyable time out with family and friends it is highly recommended.




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