Simon (Joel Edgerton) and Pam (Danielle Cormack) are married with children, but the relationship is stale. When Simon meets the lovely and talented cellist Katrien (Rhona Mitra) he falls in love with her but Katrien is also in a suspended relationship after following her German husband Klaus (Thomas Kretschmann) to New Zealand for work ... and catching him at play. Simon, along with Klaus and others, is co-opted by his best friend Harry (Les Hill) to join a small, newly formed men's group, which doesn't help any of them. And when Simon's boss, Archie Boyle (Alan Lovell), the Acting Minister for the Environment has a Berlin engagement which Simon attends, it coincides with an audition for Ketrien at the Berlin Symphony - an opportunity for her and Simon to finally consummate their affair. But it doesn't quite work out that way and all their lives are thrown into chaos.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Separation City explores the extensive grey fields that separate being in love and falling in love, of marital comfort easing into marital boredom and the distances between people who think they are romantically and emotionally close to each other. These are rich fields, but harvesting them is not easy and the film's shifting, unsettled tone makes it less than satisfying, even while admiring some of its strengths. Sex is ever present, and not always to the film's advantage; the earthy approach plays for comedy, but this tends to cut against the genuine emotional aspects of sexuality between the characters. Much is made of Simon's premature ejaculation issues - and they manage to squeeze four gags out of one used condom.
It's as if the script had started out as a TV sitcom (with Wellington presented as the Separation City of the title, full of separated men) and was scaled up for the big screen - but without shedding all of its sitcom tone.
Performances are pitched at differing levels, with Alan Lovell's politician, Archie Boyle, channelling Sir Les Patterson while most of the others are grounded in naturalist reality. Joel Edgerton gives Simon a credible and complex persona, a flawed character who is genuinely searching for answers to his relationship problems. The acclaimed Danielle Cormack does wonders with a difficult and important role as his wife Pam, while Rhona Mitra is terrific as Katrien, the cheated wife and reluctant lover.
Also outstanding is Thomas Kretschmann as Klaus, with a minimalist performance of considerable power. Les Hill and the other supporting cast are fine, too, but the screenplay (by Tom Scott, remembered for Footrot Flats, 1987) doesn't allow us to glimpse real characters as we are whisked through dozens of elements that catch on the central storyline like stepping on bindies in a lawn. This deflects the focus and our involvement as the love triangle of Simon, Pam and Katrien plays out to its low key conclusion.
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SEPARATION CITY (MA)
CAST: Joel Edgerton, Rhona Mitra, Danielle Cormack, Les Hill, Thomas Kretschmann, Michelle Langstone, Alan Lovell
PRODUCER: Tom Scott, Angela Littlejohn, San Fu Maltha, Mark Overett, Anton Smit
DIRECTOR: Paul Middleditch
SCRIPT: Tom Scott
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steve Arnold
EDITOR: Michael Horton
MUSIC: Samuel Scott & Luke Budda
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Iain Aitken
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 4, 2010