The Lives We Lead
Sally Williams, Georgina Neville, Josh Wiseman, Davo Hardy
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…blackly comic, but mostly just black…
Made on a budgetary shoestring of $20,000, Davo Hardy’s The Lives We Lead is summed succinctly by its title. Following the intertwined fates of four friends from early childhood until old age and finally death, the film is a painful snapshot of human mortality and the worst aspects of its pitiful ordinariness.
Pamela (Sally Williams) grows up enthralled by the prospect of stardom. Oblivious to her lack of ambition and natural talent, she finds herself diverted into unplanned pregnancy and a dead-end marriage with Kerrod (Davo Hardy), growing ever more despondent as age and lovelessness erode her spirit. Kerrod’s best friend Gavin meanwhile (Josh Wiseman), an aspiring actor, is railroaded into porn by his boyfriend and eventually raped by Pamela’s writer sister Edith (Georgina Neville), a frumpy and cynical spinster looking to get pregnant.
While the film is as melodramatic as its plot suggests, what actually redeems it is its own amateurishness, a Tommy Wiseau by way of Larry Clarke cinema aesthetic whose result is a cross between employment training film and government service advertisement; wherein is a gritty sense of honesty that excessive polish could only erode. Despite for instance, the clunky dialogue which, based on a play, retains the sort of stagy exposition less suitable to film than to theatre, the film manages to be convincing on an emotional level. The characters as individuals are authentically pathetic as to be recognisable, and structurally the film benefits from its ability to capture the finite and fleeting nature of life by way of its birth to death story arc.
This also means that by its nature The Lives We Lead is highly depressive, seeming to revel in the dire misfortune of its proponents with malevolent glee while its conversely ‘uplifting’ musical theme plays repeatedly. Blackly comic, but mostly just black, this small Aussie film is an interesting, if rather acquired taste.