RUBEN GUTHRIE, Australia, 2015. Starring Patrick Brammall, Alex Dimitriades, Abbey Lee, Harriet Dyer, Jeremy Sims, Brenton Thwaites, Robyn Nevin, Jack Thompson, Aaron Bertram. Directed by Brendan Cowell. 95 minutes. Rated MA (Strong coarse language and sex scenes).
Ruben Guthrie proudly and facetiously states his claim at his first AA Meeting, “My Name Is Ruben Guthrie and I’m in Advertising”. He also acknowledges his mother who has brought him long. Prior to this, we have seen him alcohol and drug-high, not the type that most of us would want to meet, even if we were in advertising. During a party at his lavish waterside home, he goes up onto the roof and jumps into his swimming pool – defiance, stupidity, death wish? Or all three?
When you come to think of it, Ruben Guthrie, when sober, is a more acceptable but not all that attractive, character.
What has happened is that Ruben, an acclaimed advertising personality, winner of international awards, hail-fellow-well-met, is challenged by his girlfriend of six years, Czech-born model, Zoya, Is so exasperated with his behaviour that, despite loving him, she tells him she is going back home and will return after a year and that he has to stay off the drink in the drugs for that period. Actually, he does.
The screenplay emphasises this by placing the particular number of days sober on the screen.
The screenplay was written by Brendan Cowell, based on his own drinking experiences (and the influence of his mother), and was based on a successful play for the theatre. Patrick Brammall (Upper Middle Bogan, Glitch) is Cowell’s alter ego and does quite a successful job of interpreting his character, making him quite interesting at times while not particularly likeable. Robyn Nevin plays his mother and Jack Thompson his easy-going father. Abbey Lee plays Zoya. And Alex Dimitriades is his gay best friend, 'If you can't drink one, then why not ten'.
At work, Ruben is pressurised by his boss, Jeremy Sims, to go back on the drink and to regain his mojo, to improve the quality of his campaigns. At the office is a kind of whizzkid, oblivious of what anybody else thinks about him, all cheeky hail-fellow-well-met much more then he realises – a very humorous cameo from rising star, Brenton Thwaites.
Ruben does gain some friends during the year, especially the big and burly Ken (Aaron Bertram) from the meetings who offers good advice and Virginia (Harriet Dyer), also from the group, but preoccupied with trends and what is politically correct, who entangles herself in Ruben’s emotions, building up to the encounter with at Zoya on her return.
As with so many Australian films, the reviewers have been fairly severe, more so than if it were the equivalent story from Britain or the United States – it is not meant to be a profound character analysis, the Brendan Cowell would hope that it does offer an image of a highflier, overconfident, not prone to have regard for others, challenged to do something different with his life, trying to go through some means to achieve this, but putting his foot in it, socially, emotionally, along the way.
(And Brendan Cowell got over his lapses to become a successful playwright and to continue his successful acting career.)
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released July 16th