Blessed -- Film Review

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TORONTO -- The not always sanctified dynamic between mothers and their children is powerfully presented in "Blessed," the latest pull-no-punches drama from Australia's Ana Kokkinos.

Set in a blue collar suburb of Melbourne over the course of 24 hours, the intersecting stories originally took the form of the 1998 stage production, "Who's Afraid of the Working Class?"

Extensively reworked by Kokkinos and the play's writers, "Blessed" is divided into two parts, the first told from the viewpoint of challenged offspring and then from weary eyes of their struggling moms.

Given that the day in their assorted lives entails at least one suicide attempt, sexual abuse and several accidental deaths, it's no small feat that the film still manages to strike an affecting, life-affirming chord.

But Kokkinos, best known for her 1998 effort, "Head On," which also transpired over a one-day period, adeptly manipulates our preconceived notions.

With the help of director of photography Geoff Burton and a strong ensemble including Miranda Otto, Deborra-lee Furness and an outstanding Frances O'Connor as a welfare recipient destined to keep making the same mistakes, Kokkinos breathes cinematic life into what could have been a stagy conceit.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production companies: Screen Australia, Wildheart Zizani
Cast: Frances O'Connor, Miranda Otto, Deborra-lee Furness, Victoria Haralabidou.
Director: Ana Kokkinos
Screenwriters: Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas
Producer: Al Clark
Executive producers: Marian MacGowan, Ana Kokkinos, Andrena Finlay, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross
Director of photography: Geoff Burton
Production designer: Simon McCutcheon
Music: Cezary Skubiszewski
Costume designer: Louise McCarthy
Editor: Jill Bilcock
Sales: Bankside Films
No rating, 115 minutes
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