PROSAIC, FLAT, UNINSPIRED
Reviewed By DAVID STRATTON
01 June 1989
Sydney Morning Herald
NADINE Garner won the best actress award at the 1988 AFI awards for her performance in Mull, in which she plays a Melbourne teenager forced to look after her father and younger siblings while her mother is dying of a debilitating disease.
Mull is a film in the realist tradition, and it has a number of positive attributes. Apart from Garner’s sensitive performance, there’s the always reliable Bill Hunter as her father, a security guard and born-again Christian, and Mary Coustas as her best friend whose elaborate Greek wedding marks, not just the start of married life but the end of her youth and, particularly, the end of her friendship with Mull.
The film opens superbly on a hot Christmas Day at St Kilda beach, with a family celebration marred by the first indications of the mother’s illness. And the philosophy of the resilient, but resolutely dowdy, heroine (“If you know what matters, and what doesn’t, you can’t go far wrong”) is appealingly presented.
Unfortunately, the film is badly flawed. Director Don McLennan, who previously made the gutsy Hard Knocks and the road movie-thriller Slate, Wyn and Me, is unable to give the story the poetry it so badly required; his approach is too prosaic, and we look in vain for the magical moments to be found in other Australian kitchen sink movies – like Monkey Grip or The Year My Voice Broke.
Disappointing too, is the contribution of Zbigniew Friedrich as both cinematographer and editor: his images of St Kilda are flat and uninspired (which is strange, because most Australian films are wonderfully well photographed) and his editing is frequently mistimed. The film runs only 90 minutes, but it seems longer.