Filled with guilt and regret, Geoff Brewster (Colin Friels) has retreated to the family's isolated, coastal shack to die in peace, slowly going blind, and leaving tape-recorded confessions to his estranged wife Sally (Gloria Ajenstat). Geoff's nephew Josh (Nick Barkla) turns up uninvited and unwanted, creating increasing tension. Sally arrives for Geoff's birthday but when Geoff finally goes blind and Josh becomes his carer. Two strangers arrive bearing the ashes of one of Geoff's young lovers, blaming him. This sets Geoff and Josh on a collision course which ends in a bitter confrontation.
Review by Louise Keller:
Alkinos Tsilimidos's sombre and meditative film paints the portrait of a damaged man, Geoff, played meticulously by Colin Friels; but Geoff is not the only damaged person. Every character we meet is damaged, including Benson the dog, who despite everything, remains loyal to his master. This is ambitious material for a film: Austin Pendleton's story from which Tsilimidos has based his screenplay is intrinsically internal, and the film suffers badly as a result. Instead of being on the edge of my seat for what should have been an emotionally charged journey, I slumped in a disappointed slouch of boredom.
In the first few scenes, we see what life is like for Friels' Geoff, living in his brother's shack set right on the edge of an isolated beach. It's a solitary existence with only the dog for company as Geoff shaves, showers, walks along the beach and sits by the fire at night. He also makes daily diary recordings on a tape recorder, in which he reveals things about himself. He talks about intimacy and mortality, and we soon also learn about the person for whom he is making the recordings - his ex wife Sally (Gloria Ajenstat), who we soon meet. We also meet Geoff's dope-smoking, Porsche-driving, ravaged lost soul of a nephew Josh (Nick Barkla), who sets about tormenting his uncle. Little by little we learn more and more about each of these characters and their relationships with each other. Nothing much happens in terms of action, but plenty happens emotionally.
The performances are all fine and Colin Friels is especially convincing in the central role as the ailing former teacher who loves Hamlet. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is the changing dynamics between the characters, although patience is required to fully appreciate the developments and revelations. Tsilimidos has taken pains to create a tangible atmosphere and tension is built gradually as the story plays out. For all the strengths of the characterisations and performances, this is a film that will struggle to find its audience. It might work better in the theatre or as the written word.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A screenplay in need of a good dramaturg, Blind Company is a surprising misfire from Alkinos Tsilimidos, whose first two features, Everynight ... Everynight and Silent Partner were studies in miniature filmmaking with great impact. As his own editor, Tsilimidos also lets himself down with choices that exaggerate the film's weaknesses - especially the lack of a strong, sustainable story.
A dour, meandering film, Blind Company takes far too long to establish middle aged Geoff (Colin Friels) pottering about his remote shack, somewhere we don't recognise. Given the power of the moving image, there is great economy available to the filmmaker in establishing place, time, even character, with much less padding. But Colin Friels is a reliable actor who captures the essence of a man resigned to die, and his technique gets him through some uneven writing. Nick Barkla makes an impudent Josh, but his character is muddy and never quite real or believable. His journey is one of fits and starts, and we never get a sense of who he really is.
Gloria Ajenstat, however, has a well written role as Sally, Geoff's understanding, loyal and committed ex, who has lived with Geoff's bi-sexuality with a kind of resignation.
The pace is too plodding and the script is too thin for us to engage with Geoff's circumstances, and some of the material - like the detour to Geoff's Hamlet audition - just doesn't work. In the end, the film seems like a frustrating experiment with nothing to ground it and no satisfaction in the ending. It's impossible to tell what the filmmakers wish to achieve or say, or for what audience the film is made.
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BLIND COMPANY (MA)
CAST: Colin Friels, Nick Barkla, Gloria Ajenstat, Sarah Hallam, Samuel Johnson, Frank Magree, Luke Mulquiney, Paige Rattray
PRODUCER: Alkinos Tsilimidos, John Finemore
DIRECTOR: Alkinos Tsilimidos
SCRIPT: Alkinos Tsilimidos (story by Austin Pendleton)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adam Arkapaw
EDITOR: Alkinos Tsilimidos
MUSIC: M. Davis, Michael Emenau
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Not credited
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Titan View
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: April 28, 2010; Sydney, Brisbane: May 20, 2010