Test cricket is not always fast, quick or simple. Neither is returning to your home in Hobart. And neither is deciding what to do with the rest of your life. This is the possible line of thinking that may have engendered Ted Wilson’s impressive feature directing debut Under the Cover of Cloud.
Droll Ted Wilson has just lost his job writing a column for a travel magazine in Melbourne. A loyal Tasmanian and mad cricketing enthusiast, he cruises back to Hobart to visit his family, take in some bands, and try to decide what to do next; top of the list is to meet his hero David Boon, and to write a book about cricket that is more ‘literary’ than statistical.
This, in a nutshell, is the story. The film does not have a traditional plot. It is through minutes of talking endlessly about trees with his mother, low-key smiles and family meals, that his eternal light ‘Boonie’ presents himself almost by coincidence, without explanation. This allows Ted the intervention he was seeking. Although Ted revels in meeting his cricketing idol, the meeting doesn’t transform him. He goes back to Melbourne.
What is impressive about this first effort from Wilson is that so much is wrangled in so little, and it is in large swathes, a film about family, with the director’s actual family mostly making up the cast. Plot doesn’t matter.
The film was shot in 2016 with no backing or funding, with Wilson financing the entire film himself, using his own relatives, whittling down the running time from an original 15 hours. The territory is autobiographical, Cassavetes-like.
Working against the grain of rapidly-edited films and plot-driven stories, this is more about interactions, smiles, gentle exchanges. There are no plot twists. No plot.
One of the largest scenes is a conversation between Wilson and his mother, on how to deal with a problematic tree, among other subjects.
Wilson, who has cited Jarmusch and Ozu as references, and toyed with making the film similar in rhythm to a Test Cricket match, stated that the goal was to make an Australian film about people rather than landscapes. Here, he has made a meditation that is slow but steady; it’s about ambling along, surprising encounters, and family lunches.
Languidly paced, self-aware, and charming, like an engrossing Test Match even; Under the Cover of Cloud is a measured delight.