Urban Cinefile
"There was a safe way of telling this story and there was a risky way; I opted for the latter"  -Scott Hicks on directing Snow Falling on Cedars
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



There are dysfunctional families... and then there are the Conways. After a family tragedy, 15-year-old Billy Conway (Harrison Gilbertson) has become the de facto glue between his bitter mom Gloria (Geena Davis), distant brother (Harry Cook), and stoic dad (Joel Tobeck). But when Billy starts to act out, everything changes for him and his family.

Review by Louise Keller:
Actions and consequences are the nucleus of this story about a family whose dysfunction begins with an accident. We are confronted by life's uncertainty, punctuated by chance, mistakes, guilt and making amends. But despite excellent performances and some good ideas, I am sorry to say I only occasionally engaged with the film. The tone is the film's greatest hurdle and director Andrew Lancaster never manages to successfully juggle comedy with tragedy as he tries to marry the frivolous with dark despair. First time screenwriter Brian Carbee's script feels like a contrivance over-weighted by one accident after the next. From the seriousness and finality of accidental death to the incidental accident when a freshly baked cake falls to its messy demise, the story suffers as a consequence.

In the opening scene we watch a young boy playing in his front garden under a sprinkler while the elderly man next door catches alight. The voice over tells us the world is dangerous and common sense does not always protect us. Intriguing. So far, so good. From the light hearted approach and bright musical cues from Anthony Partos' score, we could be forgiven for thinking we are about to see a comedy.

But then the onslaught of tragedy begins and the acerbic dialogue Carbee has written for Geena Davis' sharp-tongued Gloria does not quite ring true in the context. Davis, as 'the strong one' of the fractured family, gives a strong performance as we share the ups and downs of her recovery. Every character deals with grief in a unique way as the family dynamic changes dramatically.

Teenager Harrison Gilbertson (Australian Rules) is impressive as the film's protagonist Billy Conway, who copes with life's chaos by refusing to feel anything. He shuns responsibility: jokes and pranks are his way of dealing with the everyday reality without recognizing that jokes often backfire. All the young cast is excellent: Harry Cook as Billy's alcoholic brother, Doug Sebastian as Gregory, the vulnerable boy next door and Morgan Griffin as Gregory's dope-smoking sister Katrina. I went hot and cold through the film's peaks and troughs. At its hottest when the film fires emotionally, our hearts break. When it is cold, we are disconnected. The ending disappoints too: it's all too pat and contrived. Why an Australian and British co-production should be set in Connecticut (when it could easily be set anywhere) is another unanswered question.

Email this article

Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

(Aust/UK, 2009)

CAST: Geena Davis, Harrison Gilbertson, Harry Cook, Joel Tobeck, Eric Thomson, Sarah Woods

NARRATION: Tyler Coppin

PRODUCER: Anthony Anderson

DIRECTOR: Andrew Lancaster

SCRIPT: Brian Carbee


EDITOR: Roland Gallois

MUSIC: Anthony Partos

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Elizabeth Mary Moore

RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes



Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2021