by Erin Free

Year:  2023

Director:  Jonathan Ogilvie

Rated:  TBC

Release:  July 3-14

Distributor: The Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Running time: 98 minutes

Worth: $18.00
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Ed Oxenbould, Marton Csokas, Stella Bennett, Jackson Bliss

...pure coming-of-age gold.

New Zealand-born writer/director Jonathan Ogilvie has been kicking around the fringes of the Australian film industry for many years now, moving from music video to features and proving himself a director unafraid to tamper with traditional style via films like his 2008 wilfully anachronistic Brechtian noir The Tender Hook and 2021’s Lone Wolf, a superb, hyper-modernised take on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. With his new film Head South, Ogilvie’s gift for stylistic innovation is still there, but it’s enriched by far more emotion and warmth than has been glimpsed in his previous works, resulting in the director’s most complete and cogent film yet. A sweet-and-sour tale of post-punk yearning, family dysfunction, teenage angst and quiet suburban desperation, Head South is pure coming-of-age gold.

Long-haired, lost and adrift in 1979, New Zealand high schooler Angus (the excellent Ed Oxenbould, who gets his biggest and best role yet here, and cracks it right out of the park) puts his life on pivot when he tumbles awkwardly and accidentally into the burgeoning Kiwi post-punk scene, kinda falling for sassy Londoner Holly (the magnetic Roxie Mohebbie), and the dangers that she brings. Inspired and intimidated into forming his own band by a local punk, the newly spiky-haired Angus eventually teams up with the casually cool Kirsten (musician/actress Stella Bennett aka Benee, who has star quality, screen presence, charisma and talent to burn) to make music and find a new direction in life. All the while, Angus’s father (Marton Csokas on top form) deals with his own problems while looking on from the sidelines.

Drawing on his life experiences as a teen in New Zealand, Jonathan Ogilvie’s Head South is bitingly funny and incredibly moving, as Oxenbould’s likeable but lamentably hopeless Angus stumbles from one faux pas to the next, always saying and doing the wrong things at the worst possible times. The uncool eye of a hurricane of post-punk hipness, Angus is wholly relatable in his desperate struggles to fit in and appear like he knows what he’s doing, even while he has absolutely no idea. He makes for a great hero, while Ogilvie gets his late-seventies milieu to really sing, with excellent production design and wardrobe choices, and a real sense of period style. Putting his own very distinct spin on the dog-eared but much-loved coming-of-age trope, Jonathan Ogilvie has yielded a true teen dream with the winningly energetic Head South.

Head South screens at The Revelation Perth International Film Festival on July 6 and July 11. Click here for all screening, ticketing and venue information.