Married construction supervisor Ray (David Roberts) is having an affair with Carla (Claire Van Der Boom), who is married to petty crim Greg 'Smithy' Smith (Anthony Hayes), living together in a lower middle class Sydney suburb. When an opportunity presents itself for the illicit lovers to get their hands on a pile of cash, Carla sees it as the big chance for them to get away together. Reluctantly, Ray agrees and hires arsonist Billy (Joel Edgerton), to do the dirty work. But one small glitch leads to a series of bigger glitches and misunderstandings with tragic consequences for all.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For all intents and purposes a film noir of classic proportions, The Square has such a good story it deserves to be seen without knowing too many details about the plot. So I'll avoid plot points, but to say that it is driven by love, betrayal, greed - and chance. I say it is a film noir, but it doesn't look like one; it is shot like a standard naturalistic drama, the characters coming from middle and working class Australia, with aspirations that do not amount to much more than having a roof over their heads and a cold beer in their hands.
But to its credit, the film doesn't give us an overdose of Australiana; rather it gives us characters drawn from life and injected with some pretty average flaws. Trouble is, even the average flaws can be devastating when chance and illicit love are poured into the cocktail.
The action takes place over Christmas and New Year, centred on a construction site for a honeymoon resort where Ray (David Roberts) is the supervisor for the boss (Bill Hunter). Roberts is excellent in the lead role, in which the average bloke that is Ray gets himself into a moral whirlwind - just one silly, misjudged and immoral step at a time. He is well abetted by Claire Van Der Boom as his mistress Carla, whose relationship with her man, Smithy (Anthony Hayes) is all washed up except for the hanging out to dry bit - which is imminent.
Hayes is great as the secretive petty crim with a secret stash, and Joel Edgerton elevates his small role as the crim for hire to great heights with a seamless performance. Also great in the thankless role of his kid sister, Lily, is Hanna Mangan Lawrence, who plays one of the most important roles in the plot. Lucy Bell, playing Ray's wife, Martha, makes every moment of her limited screen time count, as her suspicions about her husband begin to firm up.
Nash Edgerton's direction is focused on the storytelling, and his command of the material is total. He seems to understand every minute nuance that feeds into the audience as the story unravels, and builds tension and intrigue almost flawlessly. The story is not as simple as we first believe, nor is it too complex to draw us in. Superb work from all concerned.
Review by Louise Keller:
It starts with a simple case of adultery. But of course, there is no such thing as a simple case of adultery. Like Pandora's Box which lifted a lid on all the evils of mankind, The Square takes a single premise of one wrong-doing as the starting point for a series of catastrophic events. The Edgerton Brothers have come up with a terrific and wonderfully accessible film in which human nature is put under the magnifying glass with detrimental outcomes. Matthew Dabner and actor Joel Edgerton (who also co-stars as Billy the arsonist) have collaborated in writing a fine script and one that makes total sense of the actions of the many flawed characters. Joel's stuntman brother Nash firmly takes the helm as his characters dig themselves deeper and deeper. Lust, greed and betrayal are the key motives of this complex drama in which a basically decent man steps outside his square.
The film's first scene begins with a lusty encounter in a parked car and ends when the camera pans on two dogs watching their owners. These two shots herald the two types of characters we are about to meet: the proactive and the passive. With the exception of Lucy Bell's Martha, all of the characters are tinged with varying shades of grey and we learn the sharks are not only in the water. David Roberts grounds the film beautifully as the everyman Ray, who works hard, lives in a nice house, has a pretty wife and all seems well on the surface. But his adulterous relationship with Claire Van der Boom's Carla, who lives in a tough neighbourhood across the river, and whose husband Smithy (Anthony Hayes) is a nasty type, offers Ray that one value Pandora was able to save - hope.
The characters are a diverse bunch and apart from Ray, none are especially likeable. I especially liked Hanna Mangan Lawrence as Lily, Billy's dominated sister and Paul Caesar as the local cop who delights in at last having something to do. It's a tense and engrossing journey as Murphy's Law proves again and again that whenever you think things can get no worse, think again.
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SQUARE, THE (M)
CAST: David Roberts, Claire van der Boom, Joel Edgerton, Anthony Hayes, Lucy Bell, Paul Caesar
PRODUCER: Louise Smith
DIRECTOR: Nash Edgerton
SCRIPT: Matthew Dabner, Joel Edgerton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brad Shield
EDITOR: Luke Doolan, Nash Edgerton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Elizabeth Mary Moore
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 31, 2008