Marty Browning (Lee Mason) has been preparing to stand as Independent for a year when the death of a politician forces a by-election in Richmond. A documentary crew joins him to film his campaign and Tony (Tony Nikolakopoulos), a seasoned campaign manager, offering his services. If he is elected, he'll hold the balance of power; he could make a difference. Things appear to go well but beneath surface, Marty's campaign is running out of funds and there is a secret plan in place to wreck him, which his political soul-mate Catherine (Sylvie de Crespigny) discovers. When on the eve of the election a dark family secret is revealed on a current affairs show, Marty becomes suicidal - and is defeated at the polls. But as he shouts defiantly 'It's time to save the farm' from his campaign office window, the public outside responds. And six months later, when a Federal election is called, Marty is again ready to do battle, but this time, for Catherine's campaign.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A helter skelter sort of film, The Independent has enough mood swings to make us dizzy, but in a good way. In its lighthearted beginnings, the screenplay stays superficial as we follow the naïve, un-charismatic Marty (Lee Mason) around Richmond on his door knocking campaign. Lee Mason begins to draw us in with a finely judged performance of a challenging character: there is little there to start with, which is the hardest thing for an actor to grapple with. But as we begin to unravel his tragic family history on the land, Marty begins to take shape as a more complex character.
As the story develops and the campaign gets under way, the impetus is lessened by too many collages of doorknocking - scenes that lack the freshness or originality the latter part of the film delivers. When it hits the darker areas of the story, revealing the dirty tricks that the United Party has unleashed, it all gets a lot more dramatic and interesting. Gone is the cheerful comic mood, replaced by intrigue and betrayal ... and then by deep drama as Marty unravels.
We see the film through the eyes of a documentary crew filming Marty's campaign - a device which could cause structural and writing complications, but these are all avoided, and there is intelligent use of the 'crew' who occasionally have a role to play from the sidelines. It adds texture to the film and provides a natural rawness to the film's tone.
Excellent performances make this a movie that engages us with the characters. Tony Nikolakopoulos is riveting as the campaign manager with a secret agenda and Chris Bunworth is splendid as his slippery sidekick, while the lovely Sylvie De Crespigny makes a likeable, strong and credible Catherine. All the supports are top notch, and the film's technical achievements defy its low budget. Shot and projected digitally (with help from John Chase who produced Dalkeith much the same way), The Independent is, appropriately enough, being distributed independently.
Published November 22, 2007
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INDEPENDENT, THE (M)
CAST: Lee Mason, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Sylvie De Crespigny, Chris Bunworth, Marita Wilcox, Jonathan Auf Der Heide, Jim Daly, Grant Piro, Gavan O'Connor MP
PRODUCER: Jim Xyga
DIRECTOR: John Studley, Andrew O'Keefe
SCRIPT: John Studley, Andrew O'Keefe
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wayne Aistrope
EDITOR: John Studley, Andrew O'Keefe
MUSIC: Nick Batterham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marko Anttonen
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Apocalypse Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Touring Australia from November 7, 2007 in digital format