Snowtown (2011) Directed by Justin Kerzel. With Lucas Pittaway and Daniel Henshall.
Writer-director Justin Kerzel’s first feature length film is a harrowing and upsetting drama based on the actual events surrounding a series of murders that took place in the northern suburbs of Adelaide in the late nineties.
Sixteen-year-old Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) is surrounded by violence and abuse. When his mother brings her charismatic new boyfriend John (Daniel Henshall) into the family home, he appears like a saviour, swiftly assuming control and ‘taking care’ of the bad issues directly affecting Jamie and his brothers.
Even the most desensitised of viewers will find segments of this film almost unbearable. From the moment we meet John, we are ill at ease. It’s fair to say that as the film progresses, so does this feeling. It’s a huge performance from Daniel Henshall who plays his role with an astounding level of sustained intensity. There were moments when I could feel my heart beating faster, a sense of dread of what might be around the next corner, of what horror may lay in wait.
It would be impossible to discuss the film without mentioning the performance of Lucas Pittaway. For a young actor making his screen debut, this is something truly special. It’s through his character Jamie, that the story is told and Pittaway handles an emotional role with astonishing poise. The film deals with terrible events in a way that never relishes in them, but aims to convey their devastating impact. The more grisly events are implied rather than screened until one scene, an initiation of sorts for Jamie, which is so gut-wrenching in it’s prolonged exposure, that it’s barely watchable. The end result is disturbing film full of brutality which will weigh heavily for long afterwards. This has been a great time for Australian cinema. With David Michod’s mesmerising Animal Kingdom so fresh in the memory, and now Snowtown, there is much to be optimistic about. 4.5/5
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