Force Of Destiny
David Wenham, Shahana Goswami, Jacqueline McKenzie
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Paul Cox’s haunting Force Of Destiny received its premiere at The Melbourne International Film Festival last year. It would sadly turn out to be Cox’s last film, with the artist passing away earlier this year. He made it known that Force of Destiny was not to be read as an autobiographical piece, but it’s not hard to see the director in reflection of his own mortality in a film which sees David Wenham play a celebrated sculptor diagnosed with liver cancer and being put on a waiting list for a transplant, with Cox himself having been through a similar situation.
When the artist, Robert, is fussed over by his daughter Poppy (Hannah Fredericksen), and estranged wife, Hannah (Jacqueline McKenzie), there’s a ghoulishness to the latter’s sympathy; a mixture of grief and wanting to make herself the centre of Robert’s tragedy. Coupled with his diagnosis, it’s no surprise that Robert begins to retreat into himself as his internal monologue highlights the fear, anxiety, and confusion that pulsates through him. Thank heavens then for Maya (Shahana Goswami), a marine biologist who Robert develops a relationship with. Maya is also preoccupied with mortality as she waits for news of her sick uncle in India. In a wonderful touch, Cox translates the skype conversations with her family into tangible home visits where Maya can touch and hold her loved ones.
As Robert awaits his fate during hospital visits, Cox reveals flashes of other peoples’ lives happening around him in the ward. There’s the couple who fight through fear more than anything else, and the man who lays flowers on the bed of his dying partner in an act of symbolism. They’re moments that shoot by but, like the rest of the film, open a window for the audience to reflect on the different ways that we all handle our own mortality.