PAWNO. Starring John Brumpton, Damian Hill, Maeve Dermody, Malcolm Kennard, Mark Coles Smith, Kerry Armstrong, Tony Rickards, Daniel Frederiksen, Ngoc Phan, John Orcsik. Directed by Paul Ireland. 89 minutes. Rated MA (Strong coarse language and violence)

There is a lot to like, and a lot of people to like, in this Melbourne slice of life. The action takes place in Barkly Street Footscray, the street, the traffic, the range of shops, centring on the pawnshop, and the whole action of the film taking place from morning till evening.

This is an Australian slice of life, a Melbourne suburban slice of life, a slice of life in the western suburb of Footscray. The audience gets to know quite a number of characters in themselves, their interactions, the range of men and women, young and old, wealthy and poor, homeless people, women working in restaurants and takeaway, in bookshops, multi-cultural community, multiracial, aboriginal, Vietnamese…

The screenplay was written by Damian Hill who appears in the central role of Daniel. It is a perceptive screenplay – although peppered with some extremely blunt language – showing the harshness of people as well as the kindness of people, serious and humorous, some wisecracks, some thoughtful remarks.

The film opens with the pawnshop opening, John Brumpton as Les, the owner, a touch world-weary, imposing on Daniel to do odd jobs in the shop, but kindly to many of the customers, tough with some, even brutally bashing one, a man with a kind heart, but not always kind.

The cast includes Kerry Armstrong as the sad mother, Malcolm Kennard and Mark Coles Smith (so effective in Last Cab to Darwin) as the two homeless men, and Maeve Dermody in the bookshop.

Over the day, many quiet times in the shop, but a range of customers including the father with young boys, appearing in drag, who needs a loan to take his sons to the movies; an older man, Harry, rich and with a family, who seems to spend his time yarning with Les; a man who wants to sell his video camera but leaves the memory card with some sex escapades on it; an Indian taxidriver, with background as a dentist, who wants to get a GPS so that he can be a pizza delivery man; a wealthy woman whose son has disappeared and taken her jewellery and who wants to find him again; the young man earnestly wanting a ring in order to propose to his girlfriend. The characters are well enough written and well enough acted for each to make an impression.

Outside the pawnshop there are two homeless young men, one a bit more simple but imagining himself tough, the other unemployed but who enjoys reading books and has some culture, getting into mischief during the day; there is the proprietor of the takeaway restaurant, a Vietnamese woman who has a sexual relationship with Les; and there is Claire, who works in a bookshop and gets her glasses frame fixed by Daniel who has something of an infatuation for her, writes a poem, she returning a smiley thank you note – and the possibility of their going out together.

In one sense, not a lot happens, but, in fact, quite a lot does happen in the somewhat miniature but effective episodes, the buildup to quite a humane day, not without serious problems, in the suburb of Footscray, but which has a great deal of universal relevance.

Mind Blowing World Films.   Released April 21st

Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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