Dir: Nadia Tass. Aust. 2010. 103 mins


This fact-filled hospital weepie will fit well on cable/satellite TV with its tale of two young boys contracting deadly leukaemia and the desperation of their parents. Matching Jack is aimed at an older audience prepared for the worst, hoping for the best, and though it’s inclined towards soapy situations and dialogue, the emotions on display are raw and honest. One would require a heart of granite not to shed a tear or two.

The two child actors are splendid Tom Russell tops his impressive 2009 debut in The Last Ride, and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) begins to look like a major international talent.

It had a reasonable first weekend release by 20th Century Fox in Australian cinemas, garnering $A258,000 (£229,041) from 186 screens.

When nine year-old Jack (Tom Russell) can’t make it to half-time with his local soccer team he’s given a blood test and soon finds himself in a Children’s Hospital cancer ward, sharing a room with thin, pallid Finn (Kobi Smit-McPhee), son of intense Irishman Connor (James Nesbitt). Jack’s mum Marissa (Jacinta Barrett) tries repeatedly to reach her husband David (Richard Roxburgh) by phone, but he’s spending the weekend with his latest mistress.

When it becomes clear that Jack’s only hope is a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor, preferably a sibling, Merissa begins a phone-call and door-knock trawl through David’s many past affairs, hoping to find an unacknowledged son or daughter.

The wife and husband film-making partnership of Nadia Tass and David Parker haven’t made a big screen feature since Amy (1998), though they’ve delivered several well-regarded US telemovies (including The Miracle Worker, and The Shirley Temple Story). Parker combines co-producing and co-writing with cinematography, while Tass again proves herself an exceptional director of actors.

Barrett is moving as the fiercely determined mother, and Nesbitt combines a Robin Williams cheeriness-in-the-face-of-despair with a heart-breaking acceptance of reality. The two child actors are splendid - Russell tops his impressive 2009 debut in The Last Ride, and Smit-McPhee (The Road) begins to look like a major international talent.

Production company: Cascade Films

Aust/NZ sales: 20th Century Fox

International sales: ContentFilm International, www.contentfilm.com

Producers: David Parker, Richard Keddie, Nadia Tass

Executive producers: Jamie Carmichael, Geoff Webb

Screenplay: Lynne Renew, David Parker

Cinematography: David Parker

Editor: Mark Warner

Production designer: Jon Dowding

Music: Paul Grabowski

Website: www.matchingjack.com

Main cast: James Nesbitt, Jacinta Barrett, Richard Roxburgh, Tom Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Yvonne Strahovski, Colin Friels, Julia Blake