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|Festivale Spring 1997, Movie Reviews|
|Road to Nhill|
A town where nothing ever happens... then something does.
The sleepy country town of Nhill is a tranquil pond, a still, unchanging body of water... then one day, a stone gets thrown into its predictable surface and the ripples spread.
This film reminded me of one of those “day in the life” books which
chronicle a 24 hour span in the life of a place. On a quiet day as Nhill
is going about its business at a slow but steady pace, a car overturns on
the road leading to the town. No-one is killed, but the event has lasting
effects on the four women involved, their friends, families and others.
It’s a character-driven story which displays the varied folk of a country town and the ways they cope with near-tragedy. If there’s a theme to this movie, it’s how people can be caught completely flat-footed when confronted with an event that falls outside their everyday experience. The men come off worse in their slow-thinking, emotionally limited responses, while the women are more varied and practical. Some people just have no idea how to react... one woman’s elderly husband frets more about getting to his regular bowls game in the afternoon than caring for his shocked wife. In the end he drops her home from the hospital on the way to his game, leaving her to stagger indoors with her suitcase. Even the ambulance crew and the local fire-fighters, unused to their roles, break regulations and make mistakes that could have cost lives in a more serious incident.
Some effects are big, others small. Margot (Lynette Curran), the driver of the vehicle, finds her comfortable discreet lesbian relationship under threat from her “rescuer”; and another of the accident victims, who seems the most unaffected, has a surprise lying in wait. Even characters on the periphery of the accident find their lives affected by it. The young local policeman is busy committing adultery and almost completely misses the whole event and its aftermath. As a result, his personal life undergoes a significant change.
An interesting feature of the film is its relentlessly slow and steady pace. No matter how dramatic the events, the movie keeps pace with the nature of the town and its occupants. Nhill is not a place where anyone leaps into a blur of action and this beautifully underpins the “day in the life” feel. It’s an interesting technique that will make devotees of Hollywood action fidget, but is undeniably effective in its application here.
The only jarring notes in this slice of life are the opening and closing voiceovers by Phillip Adams as the Voice of God, musing on the topic of death. Although it does serve to bracket the day in Nhill, it detracts from the realism of the characters and events. Quite unnecessary too... there’s a later occurrence on the road which could neatly have signalled the end.
Overall, an enjoyable character-driven film about human nature. Quiet rather than action-packed, it will delight anyone who’s familiar with Australian country towns and their inhabitants.
|Reviewed by Tim Richards|
|Just the facts:
Title: Road to Nhill
|The Players: Tony Barry; Vikki Blanche; Paul Chubb; Lynette Curran; Matthew Dyktynski|
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: Nov-1997 Last updated: 29-Dec-1997 Last tested: 3-Jul-2014 Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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