by Liam Ridolfi

Year:  2023

Director:  Pete Williams

Rated:  MA

Release:  From 4 July 2024

Distributor: S&R Films

Running time: 89 minutes

Worth: $10.00
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Jude Turner, Brad McCarthy, Tatiana Goode, Adam Tuominen

... striking and haunting ...

Pete Williams’ coming-of-age thriller opens with a shot of a TV playing an iconic Aussie advertisement – ‘football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars’. This nostalgic introduction proposes a narrative that seeks to honour the depth and complexities of an Australian blue-collar suburb.

Premiering at the Adelaide Film Festival, Emotion is Dead is set in a suburb that has been impacted by the closure of a Holden factory and follows young emo skateboarder Brock. The film is as well-intentioned, whether through its focus on the effects of a factory’s closing on hard-working blue-collar employees, to the attempts at humanising skater and emo culture with a rocking soundtrack and sensitively intimate scenes. The film is also beautifully shot, with the rundown Adelaide suburb – featuring empty factories and cloudy streets – both striking and haunting. This is juxtaposed with a 2000s punk-heavy soundtrack which helps to flesh out the vibe of the protagonist and his poetic isolation from both the people around him and the era that he is living in. However, where the film rises on its visual and stylistic aesthetic, it stalls in bringing its intriguing setting to life with a compelling narrative and characters.

As a protagonist, Brock is the quiet, brooding type, with only moments of animation coming from his indulgence in music. While this is clearly a creative intention (hence the title of the film), it makes it almost impossible to take interest in him as a character. Actor Jude Turner does his best with what he has, however his performance feels muted, with most lines feeling read rather than said. This does not stop at the protagonist, as each new character that comes onto the screen equally one-note. This is reflected in the screenplay too, as these characters that are supposed to come from vastly different sub-sets of Aussie culture are all too similar in the way that they speak and behave.

Emotion is Dead’s premise and setting are inherently intriguing and tangible, and something that the audience should be able to identify with. However, while the film claims to be ‘based on true events’, Brock’s journey feels almost fantastical, and not in a good way, as our vessel through the story is too robotic and monotonous to generate any form of curiosity.  

Find out where Emotion is Dead is screening on its website