ONE EYED GIRL
Dr Travis Bell (Mark Leonard Winter), is a thirty-something psychiatrist haunted by the death of a former patient. On the brink of a nervous breakdown he stumbles across a group run by a charismatic leader, Father Jay (Steve LeMarquand). In search of answers, Travis is led deeper and deeper into the underworld of a Doomsday cult where he meets Grace (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), a mysterious teenage girl. When the cult comes under attack from the outside world, Travis must risk his life to save Grace - and his soul.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:>
One Eyed Girl is the kind of psychological thriller we might expect from Scandinavia and it's a pleasure to see it as a homegrown product, complete with authentic Australian elements. An assured, accomplished directorial debut for Nick Matthews and his co-writer and excellent supporting actor Craig Behenna, as Tom, chief acolyte to Father Jay, the charismatic Steve LeMarquand.
Father Jay runs a Doomsday cult on a remote little farm in the bush, with echoes of Jonestown from tragic real life. This is where Travis, a well cast Mark Winter, ends up after a chance encounter with an enigmatic teenager on a tram. The teenager, Grace (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is handing out pamphlets inviting new members to join the cult, with the promise of extinguishing their pain.
Travis has pain a plenty, as he battles depression in the wake of the suicide of former patient and lover, Rachel (Katy Cheel), for whose death he blames himself.
While the story is engaging enough, it is how Matthews tells it on screen that is impressive, with cinematic sensibility and a sure hand. Attention to detail and fine editing add value, and he is superbly aided by Michael Darren's excellent score, perfectly matched in colour and tone to the film's resonances.
Layers of the screenplay deal with the question of personal purpose, as well as the central issue of self knowledge - and how vulnerable people can be manipulated. The latter is what triggers the ultimate drama in the film, but there is plenty of tension along the way, which Jody Moston's camera captures in sensitive ways, often reflecting the darkness of the material with the darkness of the images.
With its edgy ending, absence of marquee names in its cast and low marketing budget, One Eyed Girl will most likely have a short life in cinemas, but could have an extended commercial life on ancillary markets, where its audience should eventually find and value it.
Review by Louise Keller:
Elevated by an evocative music score and soundscape, Nick Matthewsí dense psychological thriller delicately explores the complex human psyche in which purpose, pain and redemption of the soul play a vital part. Itís a complex narrative, the protagonist Travis (Mark Leonard Winter) going full circle from helping people, needing help and back again. Manipulation, addiction, guilt and redemption weave their way into the narrative as does the influence of a cult and its controversial leader with questionable motives.
When the film begins, Travis, a doctor treating disturbed patients, is battling his own demons, following the death of his lover and former patient Rachel (Kate Cheel). He is numb; the pills to which he has become addicted have swallowed up all his feelings. Sharp editing takes us in and out of Travisí past and present life Ė as he counsels his disturbed patients. We also get a brief glimpse of his relationship with Rachel. It is on a train that he first sees Grace (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), an attractive young woman handing out brochures for a support group. Intrigued, he meets Father Jay (Steve Le Marquand), who has great influence over a group of troubled young men and women.
Travisí induction into the farm in the woods under Father Jayís care, where he begins to address his addiction, is anything but conventional. Hitting a punching bag with a baseball bat is one approach to addressing anger issues, but it is Travisís discovery of the abuse of Marcus (Matt Crook), a patient with psychological problems, that is the trigger for a major shift in attitudes. Like Travis, we suddenly see what is really going on. Until then, we have only been privy to Travisí blinkered point of view and perspective. Meanwhile, the relationship between Travis and Grace has blossomed.
Jody Mustonís moody cinematography and lighting enhances the disturbing tone throughout, while Winterís standout performance is internal. Le Marquand is effective as the charismatic Father Jay, whose misguided philosophies become more and more tangible as the exposition develops. Thereís a gritty feel about the whole film as Matthews takes us on a journey of despair and redemption. Itís a powerful work and the film won the Jury Prize in the Dark Matters Section of the Austin Film Festival.
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ONE EYED GIRL (MA15+)
CAST: Mark Leonard Winter, Steve LeMarquand, Craig Behenna, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Sara West, Matt Crook, Elena Carapetis
PRODUCER: David Ngo
DIRECTOR: Nick Matthews
SCRIPT: Nick Matthews, Craig Behenna
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jody Muston
EDITOR: David Ngo
MUSIC: Michael Darren
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anny Duff
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Backlot Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 30, 2015