Dir/scr: Sarah Watt. Australia. 2009. 96 mins
Director/writer/animator Sarah Watt’s acute awareness of the possibilities of imminent death and destruction has already fuelled one garlanded movie, Look Both Ways, and her much-anticipated second feature (which opened the Adelaide film festival and rolls out in Australia on May 15) explores a similar emotional landscape - an unassuming, happy-enough family confronted by the sudden collapse of wife and mother Natalie (Horler).
Full of unfulfilled expectations and unexpected twists, the often humorous Sex will please festival and arthouse audiences with Watt’s constant refusal to follow conventional story-telling lines and seems set to build on Look Both Ways’ success - at least at home, where her debuttook $2m.
“Full of unfulfilled expectations and unexpected twists, the often humorous Sex will please festival and arthouse audiences”
A Cannes slot outside the main Competition has been rumoured, and UK sales agentThe Works has not yet commenced the international rollout on this $4m Melbourne-shot feature. A challenging and original movie - part uneasy domestic comedy, part doom-laced morality tale -its many deliberate red herrings could restrictits breakout potential,however, while theordinariness of the central couple and their surrender to fate also makesthem a little unsympathetic at times.
Though the brain aneurysm which strikes Natalie in a bolt-from-the-blue is devastating, family life carries on. Husband Ross (Day) continues his uneventful day job as a technician at the local radio station and hesitant assistant coach of the under-12 football team; lanky 12-year-old son Louis (Segat) concentrates more on sports than school or his distracted mum; bright seven-year-old daughter Ruby (Bradley) waits patiently for the Tooth Fairy to reward her for an increasing number of milk teeth in a bedside tumbler.
Natalie spends weeks in intensive care. Emerging from the hospital with her eyes blackened, her hair half-shaven, she wonders why this has happened - who is to blame’ Is it God or, as she puts it, just her ‘shitty luck” She tries attending church and joining a choir, but sinks into state of inertia, much to the bemusement of her husband, whose hangdog demeanour increases when the brain surgeon advises Natalie to avoid orgasms for the time being.
Sex is everywhere in the movie, not least in the title. The suburban streets are full of sexy posters, billboards and magazines. Watt tells her story with monthly chapter headings, each with a sexually suggestive title - Foreplay, Making Love, Going Down, Climax, etc. Yet Natalie and Ross’s longings and fears are mostly kept private and internalised.
Horler and Day go for unstinting reality with their performances. As their children, both Segat and Bradley are sweetly natural and endearing. Maude Davey makes an impression with her edgy portrayal of an ex-rock-star Anglican priest who can’t convince Natalie that God is on her side - or anywhere, really. Have many modern comedy/dramas taken local church-going quite so seriously’
Some unpursued plot paths point to an altogether more serious purpose. Alone at the mall, young Louis is enticed into conversation by a predatory man. Disaster can befall us at any time, says Watt. Stay lucky.
Adelaide Film Festival
South Australian Film Corporation