WHAT IF IT WORKS
Australia, 2017. Starring Luke Ford, Anna Samson, Brooke Satchwell, Wade Briggs, Karen Fairfax. Directed by Romi Trower. 95 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes, coarse language and sexual references).
There have been many films over the years, especially in recent years, about relationships, romantic relationships, potential healing relationships between people who are physically and/or mentally disabled. We don’t always expect to see these stories acted out in the ordinary streets, in the ordinary suburbs of Melbourne. They are acted out here – but, at the end, there is still the question that the title raises, will it work, what if it works?
It takes a few moments to get into the feel of the film We are introduced to Adrian, Ford, a young man in his 30s, driving a fast car, getting into trouble, landing unsuspectingly into a group of drag queens. Who is Adrian? When we see him behave, gloved hands, hands raised in the air, wary of touching anything, fastidious, we realise that he is absolutely obsessive, has a compulsive disorder. Which means that while he is friendly in his way, it is not always easy to like him. Non-compulsiveness will feel very impatient with him. But, as we get to know him, see him in all his foibles, there has to be some sympathy. In fact, he is very intelligent with science and engineering and is able to help people in the art commune, even calling in the aid of the drag queen friends.
He almost runs over a young woman (Anna Samson) who lives just up the street, who walks dogs (which he abhors). When he encounters her on his session with his therapist and she comes to visit, mistaking him for the therapist and pouring out a rather salacious life story, he is upset. He later meets her in the street.
It emerges that she has multiple personalities, explaining to him that she is rather like a block of flats with 10 particular rooms, some of the inhabitants being aware of the others, each able to emerge at various times. She has a reasonable personality, Grace. She has a very progressive personality G. She is also an artist, involved with a fellow artist who, in fact, is rather jealous of her art and exploitative of her as a person. She is unaware that she has an opportunity for an international exhibition, he concealing it from her.
A lot of the film is the interaction between Adrian and Grace, and how a relationship can develop between a fastidious untouching and untouchable man and a reticent woman who will erupt, often unexpectedly, with another self. There is a further complication that Adrian has had a relationship previously with a young woman who also is afflicted, by her self-image and self-doubt.
The film does not take us necessarily very far but invites its audience to contemplate these central characters, to reflect on how they are hampered by the disabilities, to wonder whether therapy will help, to wonder whether the relationship will enable some breakthroughs and some healing.
And at the end, we are left to wonder, of course, what if it works?
Release 12th October
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.