WAITING CITY, THE
Young Australian couple, Fiona (Radha Mitchell), a lawyer and Ben (Joel Edgerton), a musician, arrive in Kolkata to bring home their adopted baby girl, guarded and guided by the helpful Krishna (Samrat Chakrabati) but the paperwork is slower than expected. Fiona works her laptop and her mobile, while Ben ventures out into the city, open to its drive - and friendly street musos. One afternoon, Ben and Fiona bump into a musical acquaintance of Ben, the pretty Scarlett (Isabel Lucas), a girl whose easy acclimatization to the rhythms of Kolkata seems to match Ben's own. Ben and Fiona respond very differently to the chaos, colour and allure of the city and frustrated by the endless delays, they turn on each other, and are forced to confront their differences, long-held resentments and secrets. By the time they finally meet baby Lakshmi, every one of their expectations has been overturned, and their lives reshaped.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Waiting City is an ambitious debut by Claire McCarthy, in which she tries to find a cohesion between the earthly realities of the subject matter, the complexities of Indian life which blends poverty and spirituality, and the demanding emotional journey that a young married couple undertake on a universal quest to become parents.
Denson Baker's superb cinematography captures not only the essence of Kolkota life in all its rhythms and colours, but the intimate essence of both Ben (Joel Edgerton) and Fiona (Radha Mitchell). You don't need to push the colour wheel when shooting in India to be overwhelmed by its vibrancy, whether in the faces of its people or the glory of its many rituals. Plenty of close ups also ensure a ready connection to the characters, including the wonderful Samrat Chakrabati as Krishna, the driver/porter/guide and volunteer spiritual counsellor to the young couple.
The first half the film works especially well, McCarthy showing great control and flair in handling the dynamic scenes that establish the story and set up the tension between Ben and Fiona. The sense of place and the sense of their urgency is almost tangible, but this soon dissipates as McCarthy tries to work up the poetic and spiritual essence of her story.
There is not only a loss of tension but a loss of engagement until the final scenes where the dramatic resolution is played out. There is a hole where the dramatic function of Isabel Lucas' character Scarlett should have been and the conflict in Ben and Fiona's relationship is mishandled - partly in the screenplay, partly in the direction.
Mitchell and Edgerton are both excellent; Mitchell as Fiona the young professional woman who slowly learns to live without her umbilical chord (the laptop) and Edgerton as Ben, the romantic dreamer who matures as he faces the realities of their relationship - including a secret that Fiona reveals.
While the film doesn't fully satisfy in the way McCarthy intends, it is often compelling and eloquent in its exploration of the human condition, with a notable contribution from composer Michael Yezersky.
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CLAIRE McCARTHY INTERVIEW
WAITING CITY, THE (M)
CAST: Radha Mitchell, Joel Edgerton, Samrat Chakrabarti, Isabel Lucas, Barun Chanda, Tanushree Shankar, Tillotama Shome
PRODUCER: Jamie Hilton, Claire McCarthy
DIRECTOR: Claire McCarthy
SCRIPT: Claire McCarthy
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Denson Baker
EDITOR: Veronika Jenet
MUSIC: Michael Yezerski
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Pete Baxter
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 15, 2010