The Pretend One
Geraldine Hakewell, David Field, Michael Whalley, Benedict Wall
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
It’s a sweet but never sentimental film that will break your heart in the best possible way.
Imaginary figures or friends in film are usually utilised as agents of mirth (Drop Dead Fred, Bogus), horror (The Shining) or freak-out (Fight Club), which makes the delicate sensitivity of the Australian drama, The Pretend One, even more arresting. Gorgeously shot, this feature from co-writer/director, Tony Prescott,, uses the imaginary friend concept as a springboard into dense, emotionally complex territory that belies the flippancy with which it is usually tarred.
Innocent and largely cut off from the world around her, Charlie (Geraldine Hakewell, currently starring in Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries) works the family cotton farm in rural Queensland with her single father, Roger (Aussie character actor supreme, David Field). Her only other companion is her imaginary friend, Hugo (Michael Whalley), who has been with her since childhood. Theirs is a strange, isolated world, which comes under threat with the reappearance of Guy (Benedict Wall), a local lad now working as a television producer and looking to make a series about lonely farmers and their approach to romance. While questioning her own sanity, and excavating dark moments from her own life, Charlie is pushed toward a decision that will radically alter everything around her.
With its themes of rural loneliness and the dislocation that farmers and their families can often feel, The Pretend One feels urgently prescient and of-the-moment. But while that gives the film an added sense of significance, it is the intimacy of The Pretend One that really marks it as something special. The interior world of Charlie (which comes with its own mythology and well-defined sense of logic) is beautifully painted, in strokes of both goofiness and deep sadness, as Hugo’s childlike absurdity twists into something else altogether, sending the film on unexpected narrative detours.
With its superb performances (the truly lovely Geraldine Hakewell and Michael Whalley share a gorgeous chemistry, while the ever masterful David Field does some of his most touching and transcendent work), shimmering cinematography (hats off to Robert C. Morton), and fresh, unforced dialogue (from con-writers, Tony Prescott and James Raue), The Pretend One belies its skinny budget, working perfectly with what it’s got at hand, but never skimping on ambition of concept or vision. It’s a sweet but never sentimental film that will break your heart in the best possible way.
For screenings of The Pretend One, click here.