Leanne (Pia Miranda) is training to be a teacher in 1971 Adelaide, but she is more interested in seeing life through the lens of her camera. To make matters worse, she has to suffer the indignities of living at home with her parents (Heather Mitchell and Marshall Napier). Her older sister Bronwyn (Sacha Horler) is finding it difficult to adjust to married life in remote Yallaroo with her husband Brian (Tamblyn Lord) and runs away. Then, visiting American hip poet Lou (Brett Stiller) comes to town, urging all to ‘seek out the light’. The younger generation embraces the challenge enthusiastically, and Leanne’s neighbour Gary (Tim Draxl) and her friend Debra (Anna Torv), are drawn to Lou. Can life ever be the same again?
Review by Louise Keller:
A gentle coming of age story set in the Adelaide suburbs, Travelling Light is a character driven film that struggles in its exploration of the frustrated lives of a group of twenty-year-olds wishing desperately for change. Change does come with the arrival of a visiting poet, who, as the catalyst, brings with him enough idealism to inspire even the uninspired. But Travelling Light is not an inspiring film, and although writer/director Kathryn Millard has lovingly created a group of diverse characters trying to shake their worlds and shed their emotional baggage, it does not engage us.
It’s a descriptive piece that moves along slowly: it’s not so much about what happens, but about the characters’ emotional states and mindsets. This is definitely not a film for the impatient – it’s about the unfurling of the characters. There’s little that’s fresh and even at 84 minutes the film feels lethargic. While Leanne is the central voice, Millard also hones in on the other characters, making us part of this small community and its everyday foibles. There’s a good sense of time and place and we are catapulted back into the early 70s, when polyester was new, the Avon lady was intent on making her monthly target and Mum and Dad sat in front of the telly in silence.
Pia Miranda is well cast as Leanne, a rebel eagerly looking for any excuse to remove herself from her seemingly pre-ordained life as a school teacher. But she is not the only one who wants to remove herself from her reality – sister Bronwyn suffers from depression and is not at all sure if she actually wants to have that baby she and patient husband Brian are trying to have. Sacha Horler’s Bronwyn is a sad an introverted character: resentful, lonely and so bored that she colours in the pictures on the back of the cornflake box. Marshall Napier and Heather Mitchell’s Don and Betty Ferris are totally believable as the old-school parents who believe in sweeping the truth under the rug. ‘Life is not just about being happy,’ says Mum. Brett Stiller has good presence as the hippie poet Lou, who introduces his friends to a world of mind-altering substances and whose ideas have even more kick. I especially like Tim Draxl’s Gary, who copes with his doting mother’s awkward matchmaking attempts, as well as working with superficial television types, and we see the glint in his eye as he is drawn into Lou’s fluid world. Watch out for Simon Burke as the smarmy television host and everyone – even Lou – goes on a journey, albeit a superficial one. Terrific production design and soundtrack: the track ‘Do what you want to do; be what you want to be’ encapsulates the film’s vision.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Adelaide 30 years ago is as valid a setting for a film about characters as any, but writer/director Kathryn Millard seems to be trying too hard to make her points and her characters. Millard ends up with a slightly clunky, sluggish film, with little to engage us. Gradual character development is probably the aim, but the result is an uneconomical script. It’s also hard to empathise with these over-simplified souls, not even the American free spirit, a poet with a lame line in ‘modern’ freestyle poetry. We can vaguely recognise and intellectualise the film’s ambitions, but we never feel any of it. The screenplay moves from one scene to the other as if completing some recipe or formula to achieve Millard’s points, but without a sense of flow or pace. Or a sense of adding up the sum of its parts. Performances are as good as the script allows, but the characters they create don’t stir or shake us. Dramatic tension flutters faintly through some of the scenes, and the odd poignant moment comes off well, but there’s not enough to hold our hearts and minds for an hour and a half.
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Director Kathryn Millard onset with Pia Miranda
TRAVELLING LIGHT (M)
CAST: Pia Miranda, Sacha Horler, Brett Stiller, Tim Draxl, Marshall Napier, Heather Mitchell, Tamblyn Lord, Kestie Morassi, Anna Torv, David Mealor, Simon Burke, Joanne Priest, Phyllis Burford, Audrie Stern, Christina Page, Michael Scheid
PRODUCER: Helen Bowden
DIRECTOR: Kathryn Millard
SCRIPT: Kathryn Millard
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tristan Milani ACS
EDITOR: Stephen Evans
MUSIC: Richard Vella
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Luigi Pittorino
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 11, 2003
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