The Waiting City

  • Year:2009
  • Rating:M
  • Director:Claire McCarthy
  • Cast:Samrat Chakrabarti, Joel Edgerton, Isabel Lucas, Radha Mitchell
  • Release Date:July 15, 2010
  • Distributor:Hopscotch
  • Running time:109 minutes
  • Film Worth:$14.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

A major achievement which challenges its audience.


This couldn't have been easy. Armed with only a limited budget, writer/director Claire McCarthy led an Australian team to Calcutta, and crossed the language barrier to work with professional and non-professional actors, plus a versatile local crew, and shoot in over forty locations. The logistics are mind-boggling. They took over the airport, shot at the railway station, and focused their lens on the chaotic Calcutta streets. In the middle of it all was the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai. Security across India tightened. Some of the Indian crew members were from Mumbai, and feared for loved ones many miles away.

The Waiting City is about Ben (Joel Edgerton) and Fiona (Radha Mitchell), a middle class Australian couple who arrive in Calcutta to adopt a little girl called Lakshmi. They've waited two years for this moment, but soon after they arrive, they find red tape separating them from their child. And so Calcutta becomes the waiting city, and this marital relationship - which initially appears solid - is soon exposed.

As often in real life, Ben and Fiona are chalk and cheese. She's a hotshot lawyer who brings her work with her to India. He's a failed rock star, with his easygoing exterior masking the battle scars of having survived severe depression. Breadwinner Fiona takes her laptop through customs, but Ben carries his acoustic guitar. That guitar leads to many wonderful musical moments. The Waiting City also has a vibrant Indian-inspired soundtrack, which when combined with its often striking visuals, makes this something for the senses. The cinematography by Denson Baker (who married McCarthy after the film was completed) takes the colourful tapestry of Calcutta and makes it even more stunning, building on the already tangible sense of journey.

The film covers a lot of emotional ground. McCarthy wants the audience to think about international adoption - whether it's right to take a child from their homeland - but she passes no judgment. The Waiting City is also about spirituality. It charts the effect that the Hindu gods have on the somewhat toughened Fiona, and here again, The Waiting City provides food for thought.

But mostly, this is a film about an established relationship and the revelation of a secret. On their Indian arrival, Ben and Fiona seem happily married, but the strain of waiting - as well as Ben's encounter with the young, beautiful bohemian, Scarlett (an underwhelming Isabel Lucas) - reveals the relationship's cracks. The adoption is supposed to transform them into an instant family, and it's as though little Lakshmi is the answer to all their ills.

As actors, Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton have never given anything less than their all, and they inhabit these complicated characters beautifully. Edgerton, who deftly sings and plays guitar in the film, brings a natural charm, while Mitchell brings a phenomenal inner strength. Although a self-conscious Lucas (Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen) is somewhat miscast, Edgerton and Mitchell have fine support in Samrat Chakrabarti, who plays Krishna, a hotel worker who acts as their unofficial guide and Fiona's moral sounding board.

The music and visuals ensure that The Waiting City is an "entertaining" experience, but this film, which is essentially about love and hope, comes with a slab of heartbreak. McCarthy deserves credit here - not only has she given herself a tough project, but she's not making things easy for her audience either, who she challenges to feel deeply.

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