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SUGAR FACTORY, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Harris (Matt Day) is a young man on the threshold. With the help of Helen (Rhondda Findleton), a separated woman twice his age, to whom he is attracted, he is achieving at school and has a shot at a job he really wants. But Harris has been haunted by voices and visions all his life; and then tragedy cruelly intervenes. Harris suffers a breakdown and becomes a resident of The Cottage, a halfway house. Here, he meets other young people with their own problems and with the help of psychologist, Sam (John Waters), attempts to unlock his past and confront his fears.

"Don't be misled by the title, implying frivolity and light, The Sugar Factory is in fact a story with sobering and serious themes. Elements of the story work extremely well, but stumble at times from some hasty resolutions and characters that are not entirely believable or defined. There are some heartfelt and powerful moments, as issues of jealousy, anger, stigma, resentment and abuse are canvassed throughout. Its major strength is a sensitive performance by Matt Day, who portrays differing shades of anguish, confusion, disturbance and anger with subtlety and conviction. Rhondda Findleton is terrific as the older woman, but John Waters is limited by the script – his is not a role which is either developed or engaging. The Sugar Factory is a story about misfits, but unlike The Mighty, another film similarly themed (and shortly to be released), its emotional response is limited. Production values are excellent with astute work from cinematography Andrew Lesnie and non compromising direction from writer/director Robert Carter. The transition from print to screen is often a difficult one, especially when many of the issues are internal. For a somewhat different journey in the calendar of Australian film making, and into a world where the mind shows its complexities, The Sugar Factory is an individual work, flawed by the lack of cohesion and engagement."
Louise Keller

"Matt Day, the hot young gun of Australian male actors, takes on a very different character in Robert Carter's The Sugar Factory. The part of Harris is no stereotypical ‘romantic leading man’ role; and Day shines as a youth whose life spirals out of control. The film also features one of the most shocking and gripping sequences in recent Australian cinema. However, this happens near the beginning of the film, and the balance doesn't match up to that benchmark. Writer/director Robert Carter is a psychologist, and it shows. In the second half, the film becomes little more than a sequence of events whose significance was, I'm afraid, lost on me. Perhaps if I had a better understanding of the psychological issues confronted by Harris and the other characters, I would've related to it more fully. A couple of these scenes simply didn't work for me. One in particular seemed so artificial as to lack any real credibility. I also found the ending rather contrived. While the film really belongs to Day, he is ably supported by Rhondda Findleton as Helen and John Waters as Sam, a psychologist with his own failings to deal with. It also looks great, thanks to Carter's stylish direction and some outstanding work from cinematographer Andrew Lesnie. The Sugar Factory is uneven and in parts flawed; but it's certainly far more interesting than any number of recent cookie-cutter American releases. See it - if only for Matt Day's commanding performance."
David Edwards

"From a good book, good films don’t always come; The Sugar Factory has all the trademarks of a great read being let down by an adaptation that may have benefited from a much tougher script editing process. For example, it is only on reading the production notes (which is not available to the average cinema patron with their ticket) that the title – and one of the story’s emotional fulcrum points – is visible: Harris (Matt Day) was once told by his mother how crushing salt led to madness, crushing sugar would bring joy. The irony of this notion is unavailable to us in the film, leaving the whole ‘sugar crushing’ symbol incomprehensible. Other problems arise with the fragmented story telling, which keeps us at arm’s length from the characters – most of whom exist in something a vacuum. There are some excellent scenes, however, brilliantly captured by Andrew Lesnie’s camera and Peter Best’s score, and some magnificent performances, including those of the child cast, but the story itself falls short of being fully satisfying."
Andrew L. Urban

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 3

SUGAR FACTORY, THE(MA)
(AUS)

CAST: Matt Day, Rhondda Findleton, Tony Hayes, Michela Noonan, Glenn Shea, Sam Healy and John Waters

DIRECTOR: Robert Carter

PRODUCER: Jenny Woods

SCRIPT: Robert Carter

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie

EDITOR: Wpeter Best

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nicholas McCallum

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Globe

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 4, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: November 24, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 21st Century







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