Ethan Tomas, Liam Graham, Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik, Daniel Tenni
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…a solid piece of Australian filmmaking…
Directed and written by Julius Telmer, Greenfield captures the Western tropes found in Dead Man’s Shoes and Mystery Road and uses them to take a long stern look at homophobia and toxic masculinity.
As soon as James (Ethan Tomas) steps into the town of Greenfield, it becomes apparent that he was better off where he came from. Wanting to reunite with his girlfriend, Kelley (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik), James decides to become besties with her put upon brother, Michael (Liam Graham, Burning Kiss). James becomes a guardian angel to the social outcast, even connecting his fist to the face of Michael’s biggest tormentor, Jason (Daniel Tenni). However, things take a turn when Michael mistakes James’ friendship for something more and tries to kiss him.
The film suggests that Michael’s sexuality is an open secret. And by open secret, we mean Michael is terrified to come out because of the homophobia that surrounds him, while his bullies are practically chomping at the bit for him to come out so they can justify, and continue, their harassment of him.
When James and Michael’s quick peck is caught on camera by Jason, the non-event whips through the town like wildfire.
Like Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, where an unsubstantiated rumour upturns a primary school teacher’s life, Greenfield sees James come under scrutiny by all those around him, including Alex (Renato Fabretti), a rival for Kelley’s affections. Already painted as a fancy city boy, the ‘revelation’ that he might be gay further compounds to others how much of an outsider he is. While homophobia is usually something associated with men, Greenfield shows that it can infiltrate the ‘fairer sex’, with Kelley appearing to think that perhaps James has corrupted her brother.
As strong as the film is in showing the dangers of homophobia and toxic masculinity, it does seem to do so at the expense of the one character these things affect the most: Michael. Soon after James’ sexuality comes into question, Michael experiences a brutal sexual assault. Michael’s experience and agenda is then pushed to one side to make way for what some could argue is a narrative that structures the true victims of homophobia as straight men. This isn’t a make or break criticism of the film, and it’s evident that director Julius Telmer does not believe this. However, Michael is certainly noticeable by his absence and thoughts turn to whether he could have been included more. Even simply because Graham is such a dynamic presence in his scenes.
With that out of the way, Greenfield’s strength is how it bursts that true blue, ocker straight boy image that has the danger of becoming an all-encompassing personality for some. Telmer’s antagonists are perhaps chilling because they are not simply personifications of opinions for the writer to play with. They are people you meet in the street every day, from tradies to fathers to teachers. This is a solid piece of Australian filmmaking.
Greenfield will have a limited season at The Backlot Perth over the weekend of 22-25 April, plus a Q+A screening at Luna Leederville on 27 April. The film will also premiere at the Darwin International Film Festival on 6 May and in Merredin (where it was shot) on 29 May.