Year:  2022

Director:  Del Kathryn Barton

Rated:  MA

Release:  August 25, 2022

Distributor: Bonsai

Running time: 101 minutes

Worth: $15.00
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Julia Savage, Simon Baker, Yael Stone, Heather Mitchell, Josh Lawson, Remy Hii, John Waters

... angry ... could equally be remembered for its high level of visual flair.

The subject of sexual assault and rape is hard to tackle in art and film, just as it is hard to grapple with in life. Its ongoing prevalence and the way it possibly underpins all aspects of patriarchal relations, is seen by some to prove the absolute necessity to expose it. Given the importance of the Me-Too movement, for example, there is no denying that the conversation about this and allied elements (bullying, harassment, gaslighting), is very much alive. Del Kathryn Barton’s angry new film contributes to that conversation.

Barton is an accomplished painter. Her distinctive detailed and fantasy-tinged portraits have won the Archibald Prize. She has also participated in public intellectual work in a sense by appearing on TV and giving interviews, often including mention of how she herself was affected growing up by the aforementioned sexual harassment.

This interesting feature debut – which competed for this year’s Sydney Film Festival Prize – comes with hype and anticipation. No doubt it will thrill some audience members and, perhaps, alienate others.

It tells the story of a young girl called Blaze (a good performance from relative newcomer Julia Savage). Blaze sees a violent rape in a back alley and the film is partly about how she copes with the aftermath of witnessing such a thing. She does this partly through withdrawal and partly by working through it with her imagination. Barton uses some of her own experience to get inside the psychological truth of that reaction.

The film also contains courtroom drama elements as well as depictions of the reactions of Blaze’s family. It is important to note here (and the director has talked about this in interviews) that Blaze’s father – played by the ever-reliable (and likable) Simon Baker – is trying to empathise with his daughter’s trauma. He also understands that there are elements that he will never experience. In an important sense, he represents the idea that not all men are rapists. The scenes between Savage and Baker are the most grounded and sympathetic in the film. There are also other good Australian actors in the mix, Heather Mitchell for example. The casting of Yael Stone as the victim of the rape is also not without  certain resonances, given her high profile claims against Geoffrey Rush a few years back.

Blaze doesn’t rely entirely on audiences focusing on its sexual politics. It could equally be remembered for its high level of visual flair. It looks impressive for its modest budget. There are also imaginative elements that might be described as fantasy-realism. As suggested, the film will definitely not leave viewers feeling ‘ho-hum’. Let’s just say, there will be interesting post-film conversation.


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