An unusual pink hue is one of the shades that Melbourne is seen through in Melodrama / Random / Melbourne!, the film by VCA alum and emerging Australian-Fillipino director Mathew Victor Pastor.
Melodrama / Random / Melbourne! is the second part in the up-and-coming practitioner’s Filipino-Australian trilogy following I am JUPITER I am the BIGGEST PLANET (15 mins) – a thriller about a mother in the red light district of the Philippines.
Co-written and starring Celina Yuen, MRM! screened at the 2018 Adelaide Film Festival, and follows various disparate characters around the metropolitan Melbourne melting pot.
In this vast milieu, we are introduced to an assortment of personalities: amongst them a Filipino-Australian feminist documentarian, a pickup artist, and a virgin – all of whom are disparate characters removed from each other; all trying to go about their lives and all crossing paths.
It is a lens we nary see through, especially in Australian films. The perspective of those living on the margins and fringes, who never would have met each other.
The narrative is told by filmmaker Aries Santos (Bridget O’Brien), who is struggling to complete her new film.
In this mix, sheaths of pink, red and various others are just a few of the colours employed in Pastor’s movie.
As various individuals tussle and interlace – the internet, toxic masculinity, racism and xenophobia are but a few of the topics that the 80 minute feature touches on.
This is a tale that wavers between experimental and narrative, and takes on several characters and storylines.
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, there are a few issues with the piece. Some characters, such as the virgin come across at times as not fully sketched, not entirely multi-dimensional.
Several stories feel unsatisfactorily closed, occasionally pre-emptively or arbitrarily introduced or finished.
This may be due to a larger question of the film taking on too many strands and disparate beats, in the end confusing viewers.
What does it all add up to? What Pastor is trying to say, or not say, in this jungle, ultimately becomes clouded amidst the range of styles, POV, place, character.
Effort, vivacious colours and zaniness are there, albeit inconsistently – though one gets the sense that this relentless image-maker will refine this.
In one of the most intense, pedal-to-the-metal opening flourishes of any film you’re likely to see in the next few months, The School kicks off with a woman emerging from a bathtub filled with bracken water into a strange, inexplicable world filled with terrified children and ghoulish monsters. It’s a great statement of intent, and it gets The School off to an absolutely flying start. Surprisingly, this low budget Aussie belter then maintains the hectic pace, veering off in all directions, and ultimately playing out like a weird crash-together of Pan’s Labyrinth, Lord Of The Flies, The Babadook and The Others.
The woman in the bath is Dr. Amy Wintercraig (a committed and sensitive turn from Megan Drury), and the inexplicable world that she enters is some kind of strange place between worlds, where children have been abandoned to fend for themselves. The result is a harsh, cruel world populated by feral kids in face-paint, invading monsters (namely the creepy “weepers” and even creepier “hungries”), nightmare visions, and a dangerously inhumane leader in the form of brutal teenager, Zac (Will McDonald). This strange world also involves Dr. Amy Wintercraig’s son and her own personal demons, which are slowly revealed in the film’s equally edgy “real world” scenes featuring a welcome appearance from Bad Boy Bubby’s Nicholas Hope as a suspiciously benign doctor.
Belying an obviously tight budget, debut feature director, Storm Ashwood (who has a number of shorts to his credit), creates an impressively bravura dream-come-nightmare world here, making an ingenious use of interior sets and cannily employed CGI. The performances are strong (child actors, Jack Ruwald and Alexia Santosuosso, are great as Amy’s kindly but needy hosts in this strange new world), and a vivid sense of unease and controlled chaos are expertly maintained throughout. The crashing genres don’t always mesh, but The School remains an impressive piece of local low budget horror.