Dougie Waters (Andrew S. Gilbert) loves nothing more than a weekend barbie and cricket match with his mates. But his paradise on earth is destroyed when his best mate and neighbour Norm is made redundant and is forced to leave town - and their new boss Edward Lords (Felix Williamson), a pompous English administrator, moves in. The animosity between the two peaks during one fateful backyard cricket match when Dougie hits a ball that accidentally stuns Edward's fluffy prize winning cat, Dexter. The cat falls into the roaring BBQ and is instantly incinerated, leaving only ashes. Dougie's son captures footage of the unfortunate event on camera and it is uploaded onto YouTube where the video instantly goes viral! The idea of a backyard cricketing challenge is hatched, with the winner keeping the ashes of Edward's deceased cat, Dexter. The two teams battle it out in the most ferociously fought game of backyard cricket ever for the Backyard Ashes.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
To give you an idea of how strong word of mouth is for this film, I went to a Monday night screening at Wagga Wagga's Forum 6 complex immediately after its opening weekend (when it grossed $63,951 on four local screens; at $15,988 the weekend's highest screen averages in Australia). It was packed. So was the 10 am screening on Tuesday morning. Sure, it helps that the film was shot in the area, but beyond that it reflects and plays to the primal Aussie spirit of taking the piss out of the Brits, enjoying barbecues alongside backyard cricket and wry humour. And the clincher is it has heart.
Sweet in a sardonic sort of way and totally without schmaltz, Mark Grentell's ode to backyard cricket has universal appeal. I don't do cricket. Backyard or otherwise. But I do enjoy writing, performance and direction that is true to itself, to the genre and to the most basic need to have something to say. While it certainly is not a message movie, the mateship and the sincerity of characters carries weight, as does the resolution.
Andrew S. Gilbert, one of Australia's finest screen actors, is a commanding and likeable Dougie Waters, and as always, Gilbert's minimalism contains a touch of melancholy which adds depth to his characterisations. Felix Williamson is stylishly over the top with a mouthful of Pommy plum and the supporting cast is terrific.
Backyard Cricket is as authentically Aussie as The Castle and Kenny, and will no doubt build a significant fan base.
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BACKYARD ASHES (M)
CAST: Andrew S. Gilbert, Felix Williamson, Rebecca Massey, John Wood, Damian Callinan,
PRODUCER: Anne Robinson, Mark Grentell, Peter Cox
DIRECTOR: Mark Grentell
SCRIPT: Mark Grentell, Peter Cox
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Damian Wyvill
EDITOR: Christopher Mill
MUSIC: Dale Allison, Steve Balbi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kate Roberts
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: NSW regional: November 7, 2013: other locations later