MATCHING JACK. Starring Jacinda Barrett, Richard Roxburgh, James Nesbitt, Kodi Smit-McPhee. Directed by Nadia Tass. Rated M (Mature themes and infrequent coarse language). 103 minutes.
Because of its theme, one wishes that one could be kinder and more recommending of Matching Jack than is possible.
The core of the film, reminiscent of Lorenzo’s Oil and many telemovies that focus on children and serious illnesses, is that young Jack (a vigorous Tom Russell who appeared as one of the children in The Tree) is found to have leukemia which is making destructive progress. His devoted mother (Jacinda Barrett) does her best for her son, especially when it appears that a bone marrow transplant from a compatible relative or sibling offers some hope. Her philandering husband (Richard Roxburgh, both concerned as a father and callous as a husband) gets some comeuppance as his wife tries to interview the many women with whom he had affairs in the hope that one of their children is his.
While that is the core of the film, it is often waylaid by the sub-plots, that of the search for a compatible child, but more emphatically by the story of the boy in the adjacent bed in the children’s hospital ward and his Irish father. In many ways, this becomes a more involving story than the main one. This is due to James Nesbitt’s charm and his eccentric concern for his son (filling him with Irish folk tales and building him the framework of a sailing boat for his bed). The son is played very well by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who has shown his acting talent in Romulus, My Father, The Road and as the young vampire in Let Me In. More emotional response from the audience is drawn for this story.
Nadia Tass knows how to make comedies (Malcolm, Rikki and Pete, Pure Luck, Mr Reliable) as well as emotional dramas (Amy, The Shirley Temple Story). Many audiences will be involved and moved by Matching Jack, but, perhaps because of the lopsidedness of the different plot emphases – and there is another one with the relationship between the anxious mother and the Irishman as well as the story of the result of the search for the compatible sibling – it does not quite have the effect that was intended.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released 19th August 2010
20th Century Fox.