Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King, Benedict Hardie, Tom O’Sullivan, Brendan Cowell, John Jarratt, Roger Ward
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There’s a deliberate detachedness to Observance.
“It’s easy money.” Three words that should be a warning for anyone looking to earn some extra income after Christmas. Take, for example, private investigator, Parker (Lindsay Farris), who has been hired to perform surveillance on a young woman, Tenneal (Stephanie King), by an unknown client. Setting up shop in an abandoned apartment across from her home, Parker is ready to collect his “easy money”…but there are strange noises in the apartment. It could just be old pipes creaking. But how does one explain the jar of black tar and eyeballs that sits on a shelf, or the animal corpses that appear under his bed?
There’s a deliberate detachedness to Observance. Parker watches Tenneal, and the audience stands over his shoulder keeping tabs on him. As Parker is instructed to stay at arm’s length from his subject, we too are forced to watch and not become involved. It becomes an unsettling experience as Parker’s thoughts and fears bubble to the surface, revealing a family tragedy yet to be resolved. Focusing on the task at hand offers Parker little release as he becomes concerned for Tenneal’s welfare. Like a Lovecraftian tale directed by Hitchcock, the more that Parker begins to know, the less he really wants to. Carrying the bulk of the narrative, Farris gives a strong and believable performance.
Australian director, Joseph Sims-Dennett, who co-wrote the script with Josh Zammit, is never showy, keeping a tight hold on proceedings as the detective’s emotional state is fractured by the unexplained events around him. The cool, languid pacing of the film is only occasionally disrupted by flashes of phantasmagoria, showing further confidence with restraint in a story that could have gone down the path of oversized jump scares and filtered flash cuts.
Observance will have its Australian premiere at Ritz Cinema in Randwick on April 3, as well as a very special screening at Melbourne’s ACMI on April 12, with the film’s writer/director, Joseph Sims-Dennett, in attendance for a Q&A at both sessions. The film will also screen at the Gold Coast Film Festival on April 8 and 9.