‘A Month of Sundays’: TIFF Review

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
A quietly observed character study with a keen sense of humor.

Anthony LaPaglia (‘Without a Trace’) returns to his hometown in this indie dramedy.

An Aussie real estate broker going through a late mid-life crisis finds himself invigorated by an unusual sort of friendship in the indie dramedy, A Month of Sundays. Written and directed by Matthew Saville, who recently brought Joel Edgerton’s screenplay for Felony to the big screen, this modest, warmhearted character study is carried by a solid lead performance from Anthony LaPaglia, who plays a man unable to express his feelings through anything but underhanded snark. A bit stretched in running time and not necessarily upbeat enough for mainstream viewing, Sundays could find a few art house takers in Anglophone territories, with additional bookings on TV, VOD and other select ancillary platforms.

Set in the tree-lined suburban streets of Adelaide – a city where everyone seems to be obsessed by the housing market – the story follows divorced father, Frank (LaPaglia), who makes a living flipping properties, smart-talking buyers into overpaying for their own little slice of heaven. With his mother recently deceased, his ex-wife (Justine Clarke) now a major TV star, and his teenage son (Indiana Crowther) acting more estranged than ever, Frank seems destined for a life of lonely mediocrity.

That all changes one evening when he receives a call from an elderly widower, Sarah (Julia Blake, Innocence), who accidentally mistakes Frank for her own son. Once they realize the error, Frank strikes up a friendship with the retired librarian, who becomes a surrogate mother offering the kind of affection he seems to be lacking elsewhere. As the two meet up over a couple of Sunday afternoons, Frank soon learns that Sarah has her own share of problems, leading to a denouement that will allow both of them to find some sort of closure in their wholesome if rather solitary lives.

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A cheekier, more laid back version of Tuesdays with Morrie, Saville’s script doesn’t try to break any new ground, but it does paint a series of amusingly believable characters who each deal in their own way with the onset of old age and death. Tackling such big-ticket issues through wry observations and an undercutting sense of humor, the film takes its sweet time to eventually get to the point, but the assured direction gives every sequence a quiet, bittersweet feel that never seems overstated.

While many Americans are only familiar with LaPaglia through his long tenure as FBI agent Jack Malone on Without a Trace, it’s nice to see the Australian star (and Adelaide native) playing a more fragile, less eminent character, and he gets plenty of opportunities to dish out some decent one-liners under his breath. Clarke is also strong as a wise and tender woman who welcomes Frank’s simple companionship, even if she’s aware that it may be short-lived.

Tech credits are above par for this sort of indie effort, with DP Mark Wareham capturing many scenes in carefully lit, uninterrupted takes, allowing the actors to realistically occupy the various single-family homes that Frank tries his very best to sell.

Production companies: Madman Production Company
Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Julia Blake, John Clarke, Justine Clarke, Indiana Crowther, Donal Forde
Director, screenwriter: Matthew Saville
Producers: Nick Batzias, Matthew Saville, Kirsty Stark
Executive producers: Paul Wiegard, Anthony LaPaglia
Director of photography: Mark Wareharm
Production designer: Robert Webb
Costume designer: Anita Seiler
Editor: Ken Sallows
Composer: Bryony Marks
Sales agent: Visit Films
No rating, 109 minutes

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