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Australia 2016
Directed by
Matthew Saville
109 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Chris Thompson
4 stars

Month Of Sundays, A

Synopsis:  Adelaide real estate agent, Frank Mollard (Anthony LaPaglia, is a man in crisis. He can’t find a way to move on from his divorced wife, Wendy (Justine Clarke); he can’t find a way to connect with Frank Jnr, his teenage son (Indiana Crowther); he can’t even seem to sell a house in the middle of a property boom. Then Frank gets a call from a woman who says she’s his mother (Julia Blake) and even though he really wants that to be true, he knows it isn’t; because his mother died last year.

In his new film, writer/director Matthew Saville has taken a sideways step from his previous crime-related dramas Felony (2013) and Noise (2007) and thrown himself into an unashamedly emotional story of family, love, grief, and the paralysis of mid-life crisis. Sounds dire, I know, but two things save it from spiralling into a depressing morass – it’s as funny as it is sad and it has an excellent cast.

It’s a credit to LaPaglia that he balances his international career with his ongoing commitment to smaller scale Australian films. As Frank, he embodies a man who has all but given up on life, coasting through the motions of work and family responsibilities without really achieving anything. His lumpen, almost catatonic, performance perfectly captures a man adrift until a quirk of fate that brings him into contact with Sarah (Blake). In some ways, their relationship plays out like a rom-com with a clever little cute-meet followed by a tentative relationship that may or may not come together. There’s even another man in the form of Sarah’s son, Damien, played with just the right edge of suspicion and jealousy by Donal Forde. It may sound a bit creepy but it mostly works and, more than that, develops into something quite genuinely lovely and moving.

A Month of Sundays wears its heart on its sleeve and, at times, it can be clunky and obvious in its metaphor – Sarah has her welcome mat turned around so that the invitation is into the world, not into the home. But even here, the film uses its charm and ingenuousness to encourage us to forgive these less-than-subtle moments. And, for me at least, it works. Plus, it’s helped by the recurring theme of beautifully choreographed moments reflecting the joys of life that continually take place over Frank’s shoulder. Life is always there, just waiting for him to turn around.

There are treats as well in the stories that surround Frank. John Clarke as his boss is outwardly dry and acerbic but reveals his vulnerability in his own story of confronting old age and mortality and Justine Clarke as the TV actor who has suddenly hit the big time as the star of a popular hospital series is reliable as always in the role of Frank’s overly patient and concerned ex-wife (there is, no doubt, a nice little in-joke here – Clarke played a doctor in Saville’s excellent but, sadly, short-lived 2005 television series The Surgeon).

For those who can check their 21st century cynicism at the door, there is much reward to be found in this moving and ultimately hopeful, old-school style film that relies on great characters and strong visuals (plus a mournful but jazzy soundtrack by Bryony Marks) rather than tricksy film technique and CGI to tell its story. This is not a film for the fifteen-year-old demographic who like the emotions of their Marvel Universe stories told in SMS-style bites between slabs of action. It’s a slow-burn story that has much to say to a demographic who are dealing with the difficult realities of ageing parents and the realisation of what their lives have turned out to be. It’s a demographic for whom not many films get made, so it’s pleasing that this one turned out to be worth much more than the price of the ticket.




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