It seems a month of Sundays ago now that Anthony LaPaglia starred in what I feel is the best movie our country has produced. Forget ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, ‘Priscilla: Queen of the Desert’, Muriel’s Wedding’ and others lauded as such. For me, the slow burning ‘Lantana’ (2001), set in a very fecund Sydney, overloaded with sweaty humidity and oodles of smoldering tension just under the surface ready to explode, stated that our nation had come of age in film-making. Anthony LaP, playing opposite Barbara Hershey and Kerry Armstrong, was the perfect fit for the lead.
We know his story – an Adelaide lad, smitten with soccer, heads to La-La Land to try and make it a career in the movies, but, in the end, did so on the Hollywood small screen rather than the big. He did make films along the way, demonstrating he’s no one trick pony – often in very sensitive, but underrated, roles. He came home for ‘Lantana’ and nailed it. And now he’s returned to the city of his birth, for the first time in forty years, taking the lead in this little ripper – ‘A Month of Sundays’.
Some critics have panned it, for the production takes, well, a month of Sundays to get going. Other scribblers on the subject, like my old pal Paul Byrnes for the Age, has celebrated its lack of bells and whistles, to make something he describes as having ‘…a brain and a heart.’ I concur. It has that in spades.
Look out, if you are fortunate enough to see it, for the deft touches – for instance, what’s going on at the back of screen when there’s talking heads in the foreground. It is quite illuminating on Aussie, or is it Adelaidean, suburbia.
ALP plays Frank, a man without a hope in hades of coming to grips with the grief and associated lassitude that envelopes him. His marriage to Wendy (Justine Clarke) is kaput now that she is a huge television identity in a local soap, starring alongside Gary Sweet. His son won’t have a bar of him and his beloved mother has recently passed away. And he smokes almost continuously. He’s in a bad way. He’s just going through the motions in his job in the real estate game and it’s hard to see why boss (John Clarke playing John Clarke) keeps him on. We eventually get to figure that out.
Then out of the blue comes a phone call and Frank has his mum (Julia Blake) back. She gradually gives him the tools to cope a tad better and third time director Matthew Saville subtly milks Frank’s getting of wisdom for all it’s worth.
For me the beauty of the film is all in Frank’s doleful face. Anthony LaPaglia is no longer at his zenith and it shows. But along with ageing he has been gifted with something quite wonderful. He doesn’t have to verbally articulate his pain – one only has to observe his beaten-down visage. Silence has as much impact as words. But when words are spoken, particularly between our sad sack and boss Lang, they are a joy to behold.
Gee I hope this movie does well. It deserves to. It’s that pure pleasure of the small stuff that gets me every time.
Movie Trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oDmrOg5mj8