FORCE OF DESTINY
Robert (David Wenham) is a renowned sculptor, separated from his wife Hannah (Jacqueline McKenzie) and close to his daughter Poppy (Hannah Fredericksen). The family is stunned when Robert is diagnosed with cancer of the liver and six months to live. It is during this difficult time that Robert meets Maya (Shahana Goswami), an Indian marine biologist whose world and reality is totally different. Her uncle (Mohan Agashe) also has cancer and is preparing for death by passing on his wisdom and knowledge with grace and acceptance. Meanwhile, against all odds, Robert is put on the transplant list for a new liver, opening up possible new doors with Maya.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its reflective narration about inner thoughts and emotions, Paul Cox's film about a sculptor struggling for a second chance at life and love is a deeply personal one. Incorporating observations Cox documented in his book Tales From The Cancer Ward, written at a vulnerable time when he was undergoing tests and treatments for his own liver cancer, the film successfully brings an internal view of a man swept away by his own emotions, fears and subconscious thoughts. David Wenham's portrayal is one that glimmers with the coating of truth as Robert experiences the diagnosis, angst, waiting, desperation and relief. It's a confronting film that puts us on the edge of life, where the chasm of uncertainty and death waits below, as the past the present and the future are contemplated.
The film jumps straight in, beginning when Wenham's sculptor, Robert is diagnosed with spots on his liver. Propelled by the narration that represents the inner voice, we begin the journey down hospital corridors, under scanners and the scrutiny of doctors with averting eyes. There are confusing and disorienting images as reality blends with memories and integrated depictions of x-rays and internal workings. Observations extend to those around Robert: colleagues, friends and those closest to him, his family.
Regret and guilt are the emotions shown by Robert's ex-wife Hannah (Jacqueline McKenzie, excellent), who re-enters his life, citing 'friends look after each other'. Their broken relationship is obviously complicated and unresolved - cooking him dinner extends to sleeping over. More straight forward is Robert's warm relationship with his adored daughter Poppy (Hannah Fredericksen).
There's a ongoing sense of reflection, with rain on window panes, offering a Monet-blur as Robert wonders what will happen next as his illness and short life expectancy are diagnosed. 'This isn't happening' says the little voice in Robert's head. Everything changes when Maya (Shahana Goswami), an Indian marine biologist comes into his life. Goswami has a lovely onscreen presence, the camera caressing her photogenic features. Her name means 'illusion' or 'the seeing eye'; the blossoming of their relationship into something beautiful evolves naturally. There's good chemistry
It is the pathway into the Indian culture and the subplot involving Maya's dying uncle that lifts the film into another realm. This is the transcendental aspect that gives Robert strength as he wonders whether the liver transplant phone call will ever come. The film's most moving scene has no words and takes place over Christmas dinner. Wenham is superbly understated.
Imagery of internal organs may be distressing to some and the subject matter challenges. Internal thoughts and emotions are canvassed effectively, with flashbacks to childhood where we see unconditional love between mother and son and a somewhat brittle relationship between father and son. With Paul Grabowski's musically descriptive score as emotional accompaniment to the narrative, this love story and life exploration is like a diary entry. Like Cox's 1991 film A Woman's Tale, with its themes of illness and mortality was personal, Force of Destiny is intensely so - Cox himself being so closely aligned with the subject matter.
Sat 15 Aug MIFF Talking Pictures: Paul Cox In Conversation with David Stratton @ The Wheeler Centre
Wed 26 Aug Cinema Nova – Q&A with Paul Cox
Fri 28 Aug Cinema Nova – HLTV Fundraiser
Sat 29 Aug Cinema Nova – Q&A with Paul Cox, Terry Norris & Julia Blake
Fri 4 Sept Theatre Royal, Castlemaine
Thu 17 Sept The Wheeler Centre’s Midday Shot - Paul Cox & Paulie Stewart
Wed 19 Aug Border Mail Film Festival – Opening Night Village Cinemas, Albury
Sat 5 Sept Palace Verona – Q&A with Paul Cox
Mon 7 Sept Randwick Ritz – Q&A with Paul Cox, Presented by FilmInk
Wed 7 Oct Riverside Theatres – Castaldi in Focus
Sun 18 Oct South West Roxy
Sun 13 Sept Palace Electric – Q&A with Paul Cox
Fri 11 Sept Palace Centro – Q&A with Paul Cox and Maxine Williamson
Presented by Asia Pacific Screen Awards and Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival
Sun 13 Sept Village Cinemas, Launceston
Mon 14 Sept Village Cinemas, Hobart
Sat 19 Sept Palace Nova Eastend – Q&A with Paul Cox and Mark Patterson
Tue 10 Nov Mercury Cinema, Adelaide
Thu 27 Aug Cinéfest Oz Gala Event – with David Wenham, Busselton
Mon 14 Sept The Windsor – Q&A with Producer Maggie Miles
Mon 21 Sept Cinema Paradiso – Q&A with Paul Cox
Wed 16 Sept Darwin International Film Festival – Opening Night
Sun 27 Sept Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
Email this article
FORCE OF DESTINY (MA15+)
CAST: David Wenham, Jacqueline McKenzie, Shahana Goswami, Hannah Fredericksen, Terry Norris, Genevieve Picot, Seema Biswas, Mohan Agashe, Kim Gyngell
PRODUCER: Maggie Miles, Mark Patterson, Baby Mathew Somatheeram
DIRECTOR: Paul Cox
SCRIPT: Paul Cox
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ian Jones
EDITOR: Mark Atkin, Jonathan auf der Heide
MUSIC: Paul Grabowsky
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Art direction/Chris Haywood
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Cinema Plus & Illumination Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Staggered release dates nationally from August 2015