Dir: Alkinos Tsilimidos.Aust. 2004. 106mins
With a standout,hardly-off-the-screen central performance from Colin Friels, Tom Whitecharts the swift descent of its eponymous character from middle-class securityto a desperate life on the streets, utterly broke and hopeless. For his secondfeature, director Alkinos Tsilimidos keeps sentimentality at bay while crediblycharting his protagonist's identity crisis, forcing his audience to take anuncomfortable, if protracted, walk on the wild side.
Arthouse prospects arestrong at home (the film is released on August 19) where quality local dramahas been infrequent recently. Friels's detailed and dedicated performance,which makes him favourite for the year's best actor Down Under, will alsolikely command attention internationally. The story's lack of comparative inTom's abandoned wife and children may, however, may possibly make the filmuncomfortable viewing for female audiences.
This adult Melbourne-setstory had its world premiere at the Melbourne Film Festival, played at Brisbaneand will be at Montreal next month.
In immediately engagingestablishing scenes, Tom (Friels), his unwary wife Helen (Blake) and theirschool-aged children are at breakfast in their middle-class suburban'McMansionland' while automatic sprinklers keep the lawns green. All seemsperfect, apart from Tom's shaking hands and his tendency to talk loudly tohimself. Later that morning he is advised by his boss to take a long holidayand before the day is out, battered Tom finds it impossible to return home.
So begins his odyssey, asort of dosser's road movie without wheels, through the murky end of the citywhere an increasingly grizzled Tom loses all identification, soon callinghimself "The Man who is Someone Else".
In road movie fashion hehas a series of intense encounters; with druggy rent boy Matt (Spielman),lonely fairground worker Christine (Carmen) and her violent ex-pimp Phil(Field), elderly drifter Malcolm (Hunter), and 12 year old graffiti artist Jet(Jinks).
There's a statictheatricality at the scripted heart of these forced relationships - two peoplefailing to connect in various grotty, dimly lit rooms - but the interconnectingjourney, Tom's stumbling search for identity, is fluidly filmic.
Tsilimidos, whose previousfeature was the set-bound Silent Partner, here follows Friels on hisbleak quest through multiple locations, mainly at night where forward momentumis admirably aided by cinematographer Toby Oliver (Looking For Alibrandi) and veteran editor Ken Sallows (Chopper,Gettin' Square).
Support acting isexcellent, with some convincingly tough street-level aggression from Spielman,Field and Hunter, though only Blake as the abandoned, mystified wife is allowedany display of direct emotion and that only in the touching climax. The stoicchildren get little attention. It's the brilliantly focussed Friels whodominates Tom White's troubled journey from 'perfect' suburbia to a far lesscomfortable reality.
Prod cos: Rescued Films, FandangoAustralia
Aust/NZ dist: Palace Films
Int'l sales: Cinemavault Releasing
Exec prods: Domenico Procacci, Sue Murray
Prods: DanielScharf, Tsilimidos
Prod des: Dan Potra
Main cast: Colin Friels, Rachael Blake, Dan Spielman, Loene Carmen, Bill Hunter,Jarryd Jinks, David Field