Three must-see new Australian films

We asked emerging film and television make-up artist Victoria Walton to tell us about her week at Sydney Film Festival. (Oh yeah, and did she feel like writing some reviews too?)

Lucky for us, she said yes. Here she reviews hot Australian favourites Ruben Guthrie, Women He’s Undressed and The Daughter.

Ruben Guthrie review

Abbey Lee, Patrick Brammall and Robyn Nevin in Ruben Guthrie

After doing a makeup attachment on Ruben Guthrie I got to go to a cast and crew screening of the film before opening night at the Sydney Film Festival. It was great to see something I had worked on from start to finish on the big screen! On the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival I was honoured to be asked to do the makeup for producer Kath Shelper and her family (and get my friend Emma Young to do magic with their hair). It was the perfect film to be opening the festival, as it shows all the glory of Sydney, even popping in a bit of my hometown Rose Bay in the background of one of the scenes.

Ruben Guthrie tackles some big issues that seem to be swept under the rug here in Australia. Ruben (Patrick Brammall) is in advertising. He’s also an alcoholic but fails to recognize it. After an incident at a celebratory party his fiancée Zoya (Abbey Lee) decides she’s had enough. She’s moving back home and breaking off their engagement unless Ruben can stay sober for a year. Which isn’t that easy with his family and the Australian drinking culture.

Patrick Brammall is perfectly cast as Ruben, especially when the stage play is loosely based around writer/director Brendan Cowell’s life (you could seriously mistake them as twins). Better still, his humour and great acting will definitely make you forget that he was that awkward nurse in Offspring. Harriet Dyer makes her feature film debut faultlessly as the slightly crazy new love interest Virginia, and it makes me wonder why we haven’t seen her in films earlier. I also have to mention model-turned-actor Abbey Lee’s great Czech accent and of course Alex Dimitriades as the hilarious gay friend, Damien.

Simon Harding does a remarkable job with the cinematography and is a machine on the steadycam, and Peter Crombie edits the flashback and montage sequences wonderfully. Of course I adored watching the work of amazing head make-up artist Lara Jade Birch on the big screen, especially the stunning scene with Abbey Lee’s character shooting a modelling scene.

Having seen the highly successful original production at Belvoir, I think Brendan has done a great job transferring the play to the big screen. The story flows well, and takes you on a ride of all different emotions. It also makes you think, how much is the Australian culture of drinking affecting our lives? Can we change it?

Ruben Guthrie is released in cinemas on July 16. 


Women He’s Undressed review

Women He's Undressed documentary about Orry Kelly

A week later Marie came down to Sydney to interview Gillian Armstrong for her documentary film Women He’s Undressed (more from her soon) so I went along to the screening with her and got to see my second film of the festival.

I had no idea what I was in for, so I was completely open-minded. It was a documentary about the great Hollywood costume designer Orry-Kelly… who came from Kiama, in New South Wales! He dressed all the stars in 285 films from the 1930s to 1960s, won three Oscars (including for Some Like It Hot) and secretly dated Archie Leach before he was Cary Grant.

Orry-Kelly also wrote a tell-all memoir that went missing after he died, but which Gillian found just before they started filming, so I’m guessing she used it to help tell his story. Gillian also had an actor portraying Orry to narrate the story in quite a theatrical way (possibly because she didn’t have any early footage of him to use?). I would really have liked to have seen more of the actual costumes he made; they briefed on this for a minute and then mainly stayed to footage from the films, or photos. They looked amazing!

It was great to see a forgotten Aussie cinema hero who wouldn’t hide who he was, just because society disapproved. Although seeing another Australian decline from alcohol abuse really makes us think there is a bit of a theme with Australian films at the moment…

Women He’s Undressed is released in cinemas on July 16.


The Daughter review

The Daughter at Sydney Film Festival 2015

My first official attendance at the Sydney Film Festival, and no better way to start it by seeing another film I worked on, at the State Theatre. I was lucky to do a few days work experience on The Daughter,; another successful Australian play taken to the big screen! Director Simon Stone was so amazed to see a packed State Theatre in the middle of a Friday watching his first full-length feature film.

As soon as The Daughter starts you know something is going to happen with the young Hedwig (Odessa Young), but it might not be exactly what you expect. Adapted from Henrik Ibsen’s Wild Duck, The Daughter is about Oliver’s (Ewan Leslie) best friend, Christian, who returns to Australia from a 16-year stint in the US, for his father’s (Geoffrey Rush) wedding. The town he grew up in is falling apart, as the logging company has collapsed and left families having to move away for work. His return brings up issues from the past, and makes him face his own as well.

Again, wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this film, but I found it to be gripping, funny and a tearjerker all in one. The acting is outstanding – Ewan Leslie shows how amazingly talented he is, and his connection with Odessa Young works beautifully. It’s time he got picked up and taken to the US for his career to go further. Odessa is a great new up-and-comer, whose performance seems so real from the get go.

Director Simon Stone uses a great editing technique where some scenes have the audio overlaps with a different shot. It helps create the drama and conflict between characters. The cinematography and music are great as well, helping to create a well-polished Australian film.

The Daughter might leave you asking questions, but they don’t really need to be answered. Just remember one thing, don’t forget the tissues!

The Daughter opens in cinemas September 10.

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