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In sunny and allegedly egalitarian Australia, it's no surprise that those who dwell on its...
In sunny and allegedly egalitarian Australia, it's no surprise that those who dwell on its fringes are very rarely given any time on its cinema screens. Sure, the criminal class has been getting a workout lately with the likes of Gettin' Square and Dirty Deeds, but when it comes to Australia's under classes - the homeless, the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised - the cinematic blinkers are well and truly on.
Debut filmmaker Khao Do went there with his acclaimed digital feature The Finished People, and now Alkinos Tsilimidos (one of Australia's most consistent, intelligent and, frankly, criminally underrated directors) tackles this terse subject matter once again after delivering his harsh depiction of urban battlers with both the gritty gambling documentary Man Of Straw, and the superb feature Silent Partner, which it partly inspired.
Tom White (a fierce, richly inspired turn from Colin Friels, who has been away from the big screen for way too long) looks like a man who has it all: beautiful wife (Rachael Blake), good kids, nice home, well paying job. But under the surface, he's plagued by fear and self doubt, and when he goes off the rails after being bounced off a big project at work, he drifts into Melbourne's street community, abandoning all the accouterments of middle class life.
Tsilimidos is a director who doesn't compromise, but he's also one who knows how to keep an audience on the hook. Though Tom White's journey is a bleak one, the film is filled with dark humour and great warmth, as this one time mainstream salary man makes deep, passionate connections with a motley crew of some of the city's fallen angels, played with gritty authority by local icons like Bill Hunter, David Field and Loene Carmen. It's these connections (sometimes rough, sometimes tender) that see Tom White slowly begin to re-embrace his humanity.
As tough as it is heart rending, Tom White is an early contender for best Australian film of the year.