Lost Gully Road
Adele Perovic, John Brumpton, Jane Clifton
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…as an exercise in sustained mood and exploration of theme, it’s a remarkable achievement.
Lucy (Adele Perovic) is already haunted by the time she gets to the titular remote bushland track – by a relationship gone wrong, from which she has fled to a rental cabin in the Victorian hinterlands to await the arrival of her sister. It’s possible a more literal haunting awaits her here – or perhaps the combination of stress, loneliness, quiet, and mental illness (she is medicated) are taking their toll. Lost Gully Road is in no hurry to clarify matters.
The second feature from academic and filmmaker Donna McRae (Johnny Ghost), Lost Gully Road is a slow burn mood piece that is almost a one-hander – a few phone calls with her sister aside, Lucy’s only points of contact are the landlady (Jane Clifton) who hands over the keys to the joint, and a local shopkeeper (John Brumpton, always welcome) who might be leering, or showing genuine concern – the jury is out.
Thankfully, a rock solid performance from Perovic means we’re never antsy as we spend long, dialogue free stretches with Lucy as she strolls the bushland in her red parka (a nod to Don’t Look Now?), tries to settle into her new surroundings, and deals with her mounting anxiety. In Perovic’s hands, Lucy never feels like a character – she feels like a real person, which is quite a trick when you consider that, with almost nobody to bounce off of and almost nothing to say, the actor has been relieved of many of the usual tools of the trade.
Like its predecessor, Johnny Ghost, the film is a ghost story with a difference, eschewing the more obvious genre trappings for an oblique approach. McRae introduces the film’s uncanny elements carefully and deliberately, layering them in until the final, full on eruption seems inevitable considering the path we’ve come down. More importantly, they emerge organically from the film’s thematic fabric. At base, Lost Gully Road uses the in-narrative threat of the supernatural to talk about the all too real dangers that menace women in their day to day lives: abusive partners, stalkers, men who won’t take “no” for an answer, and a world that seems empty of witnesses and people who listen and care. In a movie, the unsettling local yokel is a genre staple; in the real world, to a woman alone in an unfamiliar environment, it’s a very real potential danger. Thanks to McRae’s canny direction, in Lost Gully Road, so many tropes – the noise outside the window, the missing personal item, the lonely locale, the dark of the night – transcend their hoary roots, becoming potent and threatening once more simply by dint of locating them in the context of contemporary violence against women.
It terms of plot Lost Gully Road holds few surprises, but as an exercise in sustained mood and exploration of theme, it’s a remarkable achievement. Unsettling rather than terrifying, it’s a quiet, powerful parable that, fittingly, haunts the viewer for some time after watching.
Lost Gully Road is screening at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova this Friday, August 3, Saturday, Agust 4,and Sunday, August 5. Book your tickets here.