Face To Face
- Director:Michael Rymer
- Cast:Vince Colosimo, Sigrid Thornton
- Release Date:September 08, 2011
- Distributor:Australian Film Syndicate
- Running time:126 minutes
- Film Worth:$17.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Thematically rich and brilliantly performed, this is compelling and entertaining viewing, and also has something worth saying.
In 1995, Australian writer/director Michael Rymer made a smashing debut with the drama Angel Baby, an emotionally shattering tale of love, madness and desperation. After that, Rymer hightailed it to Hollywood, returning to Australia to helm the disastrous studio horror flick, Queen Of The Damned, but eventually finding great success on episodic television in America. Burnt out after helping to make the epic sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica a major cult phenomenon, Rymer has finally ended up back on local shores, and his return to Australian filmmaking is a truly impressive piece of work.
Though Face To Face was shot digitally on a micro-budget, Rymer's reputation ironically allowed him to assemble one of the best local casts seen in some time. Seemingly high and energised from Rymer's hit-and-run approach to filming, this fine cast of players - Matthew Newton, Vince Colosimo, Sigrid Thornton, Luke Ford, Laura Gordon - deliver across-the-board brilliant performances, responding with bang-obvious enthusiasm to their director's heady sense of commitment. Energy is nothing without an anchor, however, and that comes in the form of an ingenious script from Rymer, which is expertly adapted from the 2000 play by veteran David Williamson, which was based around the concept of community conferencing, a then-new form of restorative justice designed to bring resolution to certain cases without clogging up the courts.
Face To Face opens up as one such conference is starting to roll out. On creaky chairs in what looks like the function room of a suburban hall, a group of people look at each other nervously, as the moderator, Jack Manning (Matthew Newton), sits quietly in the middle. We soon learn that they are there because quick tempered, none-too-bright construction worker, Wayne (Luke Ford), has barreled his ute into the back of the shiny sports car of his boss, Greg Baldoni (Vince Colosimo), leading to minor injuries and a punctured ego. Wayne's short fuse was sparked when Greg fired him, but what might seem like an insignificant, open-and-shut case is slowly, skillfully revealed to be something far more complex. With the introduction of each new character, we learn something new.
Wayne's workmate, Hakim (Robert Rabiah), soon rages against Greg's profit-grabbing and low-balling of his employees, while laying bare a workplace rife with bullying, victimisation and intimidation. Quiet accountant, Therese (Ra Chapman), backs up Hakim's claims, as Greg tries to maintain his sense of composure, even while his own infidelities are highlighted, much to the spiky chagrin of his no-nonsense wife, Claire (Sigrid Thornton). At the eye of this emotional storm, the unruffled Jack Manning tries to keep everyone on track and under control, while quietly fighting tooth-and-nail to bring proceedings to a resolution that will hopefully keep the hot tempered but ultimately decent Wayne out of prison.
Despite the film's inherent "staginess" - outside of a handful of pointed flashbacks, all of the action unfolds in one single location - it never feels claustrophobic or locked down. The constant, rolling reveal of new information and hitherto unseen personal connections injects Face To Face with a surprising sense of excitement. Members of the group that initially appear to be the villains of the piece soon show their true, more decent, colours, and vice versa.
A great script, of course, is dead unless it's blessed with great performances to bring it to life. In Face To Face, everyone is on point. Matthew Newton brings bundles of sly humour and warm decency to Jack Manning; the excellent Vince Colosimo and Sigrid Thornton make for a wonderfully warring couple; Luke Ford excels at preventing the simple Wayne from becoming cloying; Lauren Clair is all feisty energy as his tigress mother; Laura Gordon is alluring and touching in equal measure as Julie; Robert Rabiah is alternately funny and moving as Hakim; and Chris Connelly and Ra Chapman acquit themselves with aplomb. The interplay between the group is sharp and punchy, and Face To Face rates as a fine performance showcase indeed.
Thematically rich (effectively thrashing out everything from workplace bullying and gender politics to the true nature of justice and worker exploitation), thought provoking, excellently performed, and highly entertaining, Face To Face proves that a good story trumps a big budget any day, and signals a welcome homecoming for one of Australia's most original and impressive directing talents. It's also a film with something to say, and a keen, intelligent way of saying it. What more could you want? Case closed.