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When Gavin (David Bonney), one of a household of gay and straight friends and family, dies after an 18 month illness, the relationships of the living begin to unravel. Charlie (Vince Colosimo), a close friend, is deeply affected but seems to cope, until confronted by Annaís (Maria Theodorakis) instant affair with Gavinís younger, married brother, Simon (Nathaniel Dean). His own role in Gavinís final moments haunts him, too. Gavinís mother, Margaret (Judi Farr), having arrived from interstate just in time to witness her sonís dying moments, feels unwelcome in the house, while Frank (Nicholas Bishop) seeks to drown his grief in gay bars. But Gavinís influence remains strong and continues to impact on his friends.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Much more entertaining than the synopsis might suggest, Tony Ayresí well observed drama echoes with humanity, humour and relevance, as a group of friends and family try to cope with the death of a core member Ė Gavin. Ayres focuses on the deepest emotional landscape of his characters, rather like Ray Lawrence did in Lantana, and extracts outstanding performances that ring with truth. Engaging by its economical focus and and almost tangible reality, Walking on Water is an absorbing essay about the human condition. Colosimo confirms his towering talent and shows his remarkable range, playing a homosexual without the campiness (reminiscent of Russell Croweís gay guy in The Sum of Us). Maria Theodorakis is equally impressive and credible as Gavinís business partner and friend, whose strong personality creates friction and triggers betrayal. Ayres clearly cares for the characters in Roger Monkís well hones script, and the film provides all the satisfaction of a well crafted ensemble piece that takes us from grief and drama to humour and understanding.

Review by Jake Wilson:
Walking On Water proves (alas) that intelligence, craft and taste arenít always enough to make a good film. Director Tony Ayres and his talented collaborators aim for a more ĎEuropeaní style than we normally see in Australian cinema: geared toward emotional realism rather than narrative drive, combining documentary intimacy with saturated colours and boldly non-naturalistic lighting. Equally unusual in a local context is Ayresí mostly confident evocation of a largely gay urban milieu, achieved without either self-conscious grooviness or crude caricature (though with a few oddly reticent moments). Maria Theodorakisí brisk, blinking performance may over-communicate her characterís strained niceness, but Vince Colosimo is always credible and straightforward in probably his best big-screen role. Overall, however, the film relies too heavily on our automatic emotional response to the depiction of grief, and never quite finds the mystery and poetry it urgently needs. The dialogue is on the level of intelligent soap opera (I donít mean this entirely as a putdown) while the style remains too ornamental to supply much subtext. As if in literal illustration of the title, Ayres keeps returning to sounds and images of water, from shower scenes to waves breaking on the beach. To some extent this helps vivify the Sydney setting, but mainly it's an arbitrary and overworked device, a too-easy metaphor for too many things (grief, transience, the impersonal forces of nature). Moreover, if the film doesnít entirely succeed as contemplative Ďart cinema,í it also fails to follow through on its intriguing premise. Critics have often complained that Australian cinema tends to be narratively slack and emotionally low-key, evading the prospect of all-out melodrama. Personally, Iím not convinced that a tendency toward understatement is necessarily a bad thing. Still, itís frustrating when a film grabs your attention with a traumatic act of mercy killing, then ditches the possibility of using melodrama to explore a highly emotive and contentious issue. The moral question of euthanasia quickly turns out to be a red herring: at most, a dramatic metaphor for the irrational guilt anyone might feel at the death of a friend.†

Review by Louise Keller:
Early scenes of administering morphine will hit a chord with anyone who has nursed a terminally ill patient, but as the film progresses, the theme of death is overtaken by themes of the living. Issues of grief, guilt, fidelity and laying blame come to the fore, and how trivial the words ĎDoes anyone need counselling?í seem after the long wait for death is over. In his feature film debut, Tony Ayres has captured all the discomfort, conflicts and disquiet of the moment Ė between those living in the house and Gavinís family who feel like strangers. An exploration of characters sharing grief, Walking on Water is a moody, thoughtful film filled with nuance of emotion and performance. While it is easy to understand Ayresí repeated reflections through the use of water, at times it does seem contrived. But like water, emotions are relentless, and the whirlwind that begins with Gavinís death spirals in its intensity until it comes to its natural still eventuality. Vince Colosimo masters every complex emotion to make us understand Charlie, while Maria Theodorakis displays vulnerability through her masked veneer. All the performances are excellent and I especially like Judi Farrís portrayal of Gavinís mother, whose emotional closeness to her son is marred by the feelings of being an outsider. Itís an emotional rollercoaster ride, as Gavinís death becomes a catalyst for each character to reassess his life. The dramatic curve is reminiscent of real life, and by its very unpredictability may not satisfy everyone. This is indeed a subtle film driven by internal conflicts that will appeal to film lovers and anyone who is interested in the exploration of human behaviour.

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CAST: Vince Colosimo, Maria Theodorakis, Judi Farr, Nicholas Bishop, Anna Lise Phillips, Nathaniel Dean, Daniel Roberts, David Bonney


DIRECTOR: Tony Ayres

SCRIPT: Roger Monk


EDITOR: Reva Childs

MUSIC: Antony Partos


RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 26, 2002


VIDEO RELEASE: March 26, 2003


VIDEO RELEASE: March 29, 2006

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