Not long after Lou's (Lily Bell-Tindley) father walks out of her life, her grandfather, Doyle (John Hurt) is billeted with her family at their modest country house near the sea in northern New South Wales: mum Rhia (Emily Barclay) and her younger siblings Leanne (Charlie-Rose MacLennan) and Lani (Eloise MacLenann). Resentful at first, Lou begins to thaw to Doyle, who suffers from Alzheimer's but is still in love with his late wife. Through the haze of his illness, Doyle manages to warm Lou's heart, which has been broken by her father's absence.
Review by Louise Keller:
Beautifully realised, this internal film about the chapter in the life of an impressionable pubescent girl is a sensitive depiction that resonates. Set against the backdrop of rural Australia, it is a small arthouse film that tells the emotionally complex story of a young girl, her two younger siblings, her single mother and her Alzheimer suffering grandfather who thinks she is his long lost love. The mood is what writer director Belinda Chayko captures best as we become engrossed in the reality of 11 year old Lou (Lily Bell-Tindley), drawn to the fantasy world of her delusional grandfather. It's a remarkable performance from Bell-Tindley, who transmits great assurance as the defensive, indignant and hostile daughter whose resentment and anger turns to acceptance and understanding as she begins to understand the beauty and power of love.
From the beginning, we get a real sense of what everyday life is like for the three little girls, Lani, Leanne and Louise, who tolerate their mother Rhia's (Emily Barclay, excellent) Commodore-driving boyfriend Cosmo (Jay Ryan) and live in terror of the unpredictable but regular banging on the door from the local bailiff. And then the grandfather they have never met before arrives. There's an unspoken connection with their absent father, but John Hurt's Doyle is yet another problem, as the reality of the problems associated with his Alzheimer condition becomes evident.
There's a great sense of place and those night scenes when the sugar cane is burnt, crackling and lighting the night sky dramatically, add their own texture. The turnaround begins when Lou accept Doyle's declarations of love intended for his estranged wife. He becomes her ticket to fantasy and we, like him, are taken by her melancholy brown eyes, heart-shaped face and soft blond hair.
For all its good points, Lou is a difficult film to market, mainly due to its lack of dynamic and dramatic story arc. Yet, it is nostalgic, reflective and subtle and for those willing to take the journey, there are sweet rewards.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Lily Bell-Tindley is a talented 11 year old and a real find; she has that rare quality that 'the camera loves'. She and the equally talented Emily Barclay make this film watchable, although of course John Hurt is splendidly fragile and/or grumpy as the ageing grandfather who sometimes mistakes Lou for his late wife, Annie. This case of mistaken identity becomes a device which powers the relationship between the two characters, which eventually takes central place in the film.
I say eventually because Belinda Chayko's script tends to meander, not settling which story she wants to tell; is it Rhia's point of view of Lou's? Emily Barclay is great as Rhia, her fascinating face a playground of emotions that give us direct access to her innermost feelings.
Rhia's affair with handsome young local, Cosmo (Jay Ryan) is used to underline her youth and her predicament: a single mum with three young daughters, the debt collector banging on the door, a life unlived. These elements tend to crowd out the subtler issues of Lou's pre-pubescent emotional exploration - the real subject of the screenplay.
In parts charming, nuanced and internal, Lou is a film for contemplative viewing. It lacks the dynamics or scale of grand Cinema but the journey of the key characters has a melancholy sweetness.
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CAST: John Hurt, Emma Barclay, Lily Bell-Tindley, Damien Garvey, Daniella Farinacci, Jonathan Segat
PRODUCER: Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden, Belinda Chayko, Michael McMahon
DIRECTOR: Belinda Chayko
SCRIPT: Belinda Chayko
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hugh Miller
EDITOR: Denise Haratzis
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Peter Baxter
RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Kojo Pictures
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 17, 2010