Candy (Abbie Cornish) is a young artist whose lust for life takes her to the edge of sanity. Dan (Heath Ledger), is an aspiring-poet in love with Candy. In heroin they find a path to limitless pleasure. But as the addiction takes hold they lose the very thing they sought - the purity of their love. If they can't steal the money for a fix - or worse - they go to Casper (Geoffrey Rush), a decadent older user and supplier. They seek an escape in the country but fail to find it, and when Candy falls pregnant, they try to stop using for the baby's sake, but fate intervenes. Candy rejects her parents (Tony Martin, Noni Hazlehurst), and when she has a breakdown, their love is stretched, seemingly beyond its limits.
Review by Louise Keller:
Candy and Dan live in their own world, a kaleidoscope of intensity. Life comprises drugs and sex. Love, it seems isn't enough, are they are swept up into the whirlwind of addiction. Watching Neil Armfield's beautifully directed film Candy is a little like looking through a window and watching pain. "The world is very bewildering to a junkie,' says Heath Ledger's Dan. And it's bewildering and difficult to watch as the world of two young individuals becomes confused and destroyed. The central characters are artists - a painter and a poet - but is it art to watch this self-destruction? It's a performance driven film and Ledger and Abbie Cornish as Candy bury themselves in their characters. They live to get high, and although the film's three sections are called Heaven, Earth and Hell, it all feels like hell.
Told from Dan's point of view (the story is adapted from Luke Davies' novel), Dan and Candy want to share everything - from 'the best bits' to the rock bottom of despair. Cornish is especially appealing as Candy and Ledger convinces, despite an accent which wavers from Aussie to Pommie and back. It's a tough film and the world of drugs is never glamorised. "When you can stop, you don't want to; when you want to, you can't," muses Geoffrey Rush's junkie Casper. Rush paints Casper as a complex and sad figure, who accepts his own addiction almost philosophically.
Candy and Dan shoot up in a car wash, in a bath, in the bedroom, in the lounge room..... needles and more needles. It all gets tedious. We become almost detached, just like Dan, when Candy first prostitutes herself, to raise drug money. He is stunned as he sits in the car outside the loan shark shop, but does nothing. Once on the merry go round, there's no turning back, and Candy's parents (Tony Martin and Noni Hazelhurst) watch helplessly. We feel their plight. The incessant drug abuse becomes tiresome to watch and sequences like those in which Dan steals a wallet and goes through extreme lengths to use the stolen credit cards are almost a welcome relief.
Ultimately Candy is a sad experience, that takes us into the lives of characters that are lost and suffering. Although there are rewards in this proficiently made and well performed drama, the experience is more painful than revelatory.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The density of Candy as a film comes from the novel, but this also snags the film's language. The written word has a billion nuances created by the reader, whereas a film has to be very visually specific. The result is a film that is evidently trying to capture an intense, sad, bad story about love that runs down the drain of heroin addiction - but can't match the poetry of the ideas that swirl about in the reader's head. Heroin addiction is not pretty, it's not poetic and the characters (thank the lord) are not romanticised as some sort of bohemian artisans defying society. They seem more like misguided youth for whom our sympathies get worn out pretty fast.
It seems at times to be a reluctant admission that the joys of heroin come at a high price - but hey - try the high!
This leaves the film with a dilemma: either we are bored by the one-note story of addiction dragging everyone down, or we are depressed by it. Or both. Since the literary joys of reading the words and forming our own images are not available, and the cinematic joys are to do with the manufacture of the film (in the broadest sense), it is a tough film for audiences who expect some sort of payoff for the pains they endure getting through it. Some bleak humour emerges, true, and the joy of witnessing extraordinary performances by the entire cast is very real. No wonder it was invited to the Berlinale (February 2006). But overall, it seems the ambitions of a poetic death wish movie are not realised. So if you're sick of the happy endings Hollywood feeds us, try Candy. You will/won't be disappointed.
Or if you are keen to see the destruction wrought by heroin on the average user, look no further. The film may even do some good among those who think heroin is a cool drug they might try, by showing them just how uncool it actually is. But cinema has to be more than a stop sign, and while the film is technically excellent, artistically it is a reminder that some books, even excellent ones, should stay written as words.
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CAST: Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush, Tony Martin, Noni Hazlehurst, David Argue, Paul Blackwell, Tom Budge, Jason Chan, Nathaniel Dean, Tara Morice
PRODUCER: Margaret Fink, Emile Sherman
DIRECTOR: Neil Armfield
SCRIPT: Neil Armfield (novel by Luke Davies)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Garry Phillips
EDITOR: Dany Cooper
MUSIC: Paul Charlier
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robert Cousins
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 25, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
VIDEO RELEASE: November 8, 2006