Venue: Sydney Film Festival
SYDNEY -- Untangling the snarl of family ties proves the principal diversion in the melodramatic family saga “Ten Empty.” It’s the first film from Roguestar Productions, the company formed by fellow Aussie actors Brendan Cowell and Anthony Hayes. A terrific performance in a minor role shows again what a major talent Cowell is as an actor. It’s a pity the same can’t be said for his writing skills: The script, co-written with Hayes, who also directs, is an overcooked melange of familial disaffection, long-hidden secrets and mental illness, seasoned with some colloquial humor.
It’s hard to see domestic audiences being drawn in great numbers to yet another dark tale of suburban dysfunction when it opens locally in limited release on July 3.
Elliot (Daniel Frederiksen), whose character is largely defined by the fact he drinks pinot noir, returns to Adelaide with a city-slick veneer after 10 years in the “big smoke” of Sydney. He’s come back for his half-brother’s christening, reunited with the family he ran away from after his mother died.
In that time, Elliot’s belligerent drunk of a father (Geoff Morrell) has married his late wife’s sister (Lucy Bell). Elliot is to become godfather to the offspring of that union. His younger brother Brett (Tom Budge), meanwhile, has locked himself in his room and cowers among his dead mother’s belongings, including 10 empty painter’s canvases, refusing to speak.
The supporting cast, including Jack Thompson, Blazey Best and Cowell as Elliot’s larrikin mate, creates properly lived-in characters. Grim production design and Tristan Milani’s claustrophobic cinematography lend kitchen-sink realism.
Production companies: Yeah Right Films, Dragonfly Pictures. Cast: Daniel Frederiksen, Geoff Morrell, Tom Budge, Lucy Bell, Jack Thompson, Brendan Cowell. Director: Anthony Hayes. Screenwriters: Anthony Hayes, Brendan Cowell. Producer: Naomi Wenck. Co-producers: Anthony Hayes, Brendan Cowell. Director of photography: Tristan Milani. Production designer: Robert Webb. Music: Ollie Browne and Art of Fighting. Costume designer: Polly Smyth. Editor: Luke Doolan. Sales Agent: Icon Films. No MPAA rating, 95 minutes.