Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

For those who are used to a diet of high school rom-coms, Murali Thalluri’s debut will come as a shock. This is the Aussie antidote, with seriously screwed up roms and no com to speak of.

It begins with a death – perhaps. Melody (Teresa Palmer) can’t get into the john. She’s banging on the door when one of the more aggressive teachers joins her and starts shouting and hammering. Melody fetches the janitor, who unlocks the door, and…

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CUT to a flashback leading up to this incident, in which any one of the seven main characters, with the exception of Melody, might be the victim. Thalluri uses a clever technique of black-and-white close up interviews of the seven, talking about their feelings for the school (negative) and relationships (messy). These are slotted in every so often as the day unfolds.

Testosterone is at a dangerously high level amongst the male contingent, Sean (Joel Mackenzie), Luke (Sam Harris) and Melody’s brother Marcus (Frank Sweet). Steven (Charles Baird), an English kid with unfortunate medical problems, such as peeing his pants involuntarily, has more to worry about than finding a babe for a girlfriend.

Sexual confusion, emotional anguish and deep rooted despair swirl and claw at the heartstrings of these vulnerable teenagers, as they endeavor to hide the truth of their fears, remaining outwardly cool.

Is Luke, the soccer stud, whom all the girls fancy, a closet gay? Sean, the anarchic rebel - school sucks, sex rules, dude! - certainly hopes so. His attitude to life is beyond cynicism, out of authority’s reach, burnt by rage and honesty to the point where hope is as phony as love. And what of Marcus, pressured by a successful, authoritarian father, who climbs into his sister’s bed (“He’s been touching me since I was 13”), rigid with lust, unable to speak to her? Melody is the perfect blonde Naomi Watts lookalike, who can’t stop crying. In this open environment, with councilors on tap, and language as raw as road kill, certain things cannot be talked about and these are the things that eat the soul and leave an emptiness too deep to climb out of.

Thalluri’s achievement is far more impressive than exposing the cruelty of youth with an accuracy that breaks all ties to the Hollywood cliché. For a 23-year-old writer/director, this is a remarkably well made film that makes no compromises to the romantic tradition of high school happy endings. It is brutal, like rejection and rape. It bleeds.

The performances match the truth of the writing and if Mackenzie stands out, this is the nature of Sean’s character as well as the actor’s commitment. There is not a weak strand in this ensemble. Every one matters; every one hurts.

Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2007
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Emotions bleed at an Aussie high school.

Director: Murali K Thalluri

Writer: Murali K Thalluri

Starring: Teresa Palmer, Joel Mackenzie, Frank Sweet, Clementine Mellor, Charles Baird, Sam Harris, Marni Spillane, Sarah Hudson, Chris Olver, Xavier Samuel, Gary Sweet, Daniel Whyte

Year: 2006

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: Australia


Australia 2007

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