DOWNRIVER. Australia, 2015. Starring Reef Ireland, Kerry Fox, Thom Green, Charles Grounds, Lester Ellis Jr, Helen Morse, Robert Taylor. Directed by Grant Scicluna. 97 minutes. Rated MA.
Downriver is a mood piece or a very moody piece. It is a story of death, guilt, mystery.
The central character, James, emerges from prison at the beginning of the film and the audience soon discovering that he has been serving a sentence for the death of a little boy, whose body has never been found. The death happened when James was a young boy, playing with his friend Anthony. At the beginning, the audience knows something more than James does with a flashback showing James washing the mud from himself, running away, the information about his epileptic fit and is not remembering – but seeing Anthony, also young, sitting by the river but then going down to look at the body of the dead boy.
James has to report to the parole officer but decides to go back to the family house on the location where the death occurred. He has had an encounter with the boy’s mother, weeping and still angrily confronting James and wanting to know whether body is. James does not know whether body is and over the period of a day or two, he contacts Anthony, a strong antagonism between them. but he also makes friends with the loner, Damien, who lives with his family in an adjoining house.
His mother arrives with her lover, she still upset about the death but in partial denial, especially in acknowledging James as her son to the lover.
James comes across an elderly woman who lives in the mountains and tends dogs, discovering that she and others have hunted wild dogs and disposed of their bodies, James going to search the site and finding underground tunnels.
There is a twist as James continues to investigate, encountering Anthony’s brother and Anthony’s father, leading to a violent confrontation – and the discovery revelation.
The film has beautiful settings, especially from about Warrandyte and the Yarra River.
The moodiness of the film comes from the character of James, his experience, his memories, his search.With the dysfunctional families, and the initial death there is a strong atmosphere of violence. The theme of sexuality is also quite strong, homosexual theme with James, Anthony, the neighbouring boy, the local storekeeper all homosexual with conflicting behaviour. This is the first feature film of the director, Grant Sicluna, who had previously made several short films with gay themes.
The cast is strong with Reef Ireland as James, Thom Green as Anthony, with Kerry Fox as James’s mother and Robert Taylor as her lover and a welcome appearance by Helen Morse as Mary.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Rialto Released June 16th 2016.