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BACKTRACK

SYNOPSIS: Psychologist Peter Bower's (Adrien Brody) life is thrown into turmoil when he discovers that the patients he has been seeing are ghosts. Risking his own sanity, Peter delves into his past to uncover a terrifying secret which only he can put right.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Memory, repressed memory, guilt, death and grief are the driving elements of this psychological thriller cum ghost story, in which a young daughter's accidental death triggers a journey back in time to uncover the truth. And if the truth sets you free, it's also costly in emotional terms, for all concerned.

Most concerned are Peter Bower (Adrien Brody), the young father whose daughter is killed in a street accident right by his side. It takes a while for him to discover the almost hidden link to this event as ghosts appear in his consulting room. They are not just any ghosts ... and they are all really angry, presumably for being .... ahem... dead.

There is a good deal of borrowed and much used cinematic artefacts in the ghostly aspects, which weigh down the first half both in cinematic terms and as storytelling. The banging doors, the fright cues in the soundtrack and the ghostly appearances are all too derivative to be powerful. It's not until the action starts to move towards its resolution and the thriller aspects rise to the top that the film gains the traction it needs to keep us engaged.

Brody is well cast as the troubled father with a secret his mind has repressed, Sam Neill is a calmly authoritative senior colleague, Malcolm Kennard is always a pleasure to see, in this case in a small but crucial role as a friend from school days, and it's great to see George Shevtsov on screen (too infrequently) as Bower senior, the retired cop who plays a central role in the story. Also notable is Robin McLeavy as Barbara, the policewoman in her home town of False Creek where the pivotal events had taken place - and where the players now are reunited.

It's a decent story, but the film suffers from the muddling effect of ghost story mixed with thriller.

Review by Louise Keller:
The problem with Backtrack begins with its screenplay. Never mind that it is derivative, it is the lack of engagement in the film's first half that is its greatest problem as it struggles to straddle genres from that of the supernatural to thriller. Writer Michael Petroni (The Book Thief) uses painful pauses, angst-ridden faces and darkness to portray the troubled mood that permeates. Oscar winner Adrien Brody effectively portrays the confused, disturbed protagonist, but it is not until the second half when the thriller elements kick in, that things pick up. Dale Cornelius' music score contributes greatly. The film eventually delivers, although it needs patience to preserver until the climactic ending.

Brody plays Peter Bower, a psychologist whose patients are stuck in time. Are they all amnesiacs or is there a darker reason behind their inability to connect with the present? In particular, we meet a traumatised young girl named Elizabeth Valentine, who leaves an impact. These things have all become apparent following the recent tragic death of Bower's young daughter. Many of the scenes take place in the dead of night, in the rain and in trains.

It is not until Bower revisits the past and returns to his rural hometown of the aptly named False Creek, that the film takes shape. There is clearly no love lost between Bower and his retired cop father Bill (George Shevtsov) who has a workshop 'for man stuff' or his small town brother Baz (Malcolm Kennard), who is not comfortable to talk about the past. There is a gritty atmosphere in these scenes when Bower steps back in time and we can well imagine that this is a town where everyone knows everyone's business. What is the significance of an old newspaper article and Bower is drawn to the local train tracks and signal house as he struggles to trigger his memory in order to solve puzzle that cripples his mental state.

Sam Neill appears in a small role as Bower's mentor and conscience, while Robin McLeavy is excellent as the local cop with an emotional connection. What is the significance of the date, July 12? And what memory from his teenage years is Bower suppressing? The climactic sequence involving a police car and a train is terrifying indeed. It may not be enough however, to totally rescue the film and its lack of cohesion, although it ends up in a far better place than how it begins.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

BACKTRACK (M)
(Aust, 2015)

CAST: Adrien Brody, Sam Neill, Robin McLeavy, Bruce Spence, Jenni Baird, Anna Lise Phillips, Chloe Bayliss, Olga Miller, Malcolm Kennard, George Shevtsov

PRODUCER: Antonia Barnard, Jamie Hilton

DIRECTOR: Michael Petroni

SCRIPT: Michael Petroni

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stefan Duscio

EDITOR: Martin Connor, Luke Doolan

MUSIC: Dale Cornelius

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Elizabeth Mary Moore

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 16, 2016







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