Melbourne International Film Festival 2009
According to the producers, Blessed “is a film about mothers and children, about love and beauty, about being lost and finding your way home.” Director Ana Kokkinos, of Head On fame, has given us another disturbing exploration of surviving in the twenty-first century.
It is a very grim, gloomy look at ordinary lives in Melbourne’s western suburbs. They are outsiders: single parent families, migrants, indigenous stolen generation, the old to the very young. A lot of it is not a pretty picture: shoplifting, burglary, child abuse, poker machine addiction, clothing outworkers.
It’s the underclass, the working class who are unemployed or underemployed and exploited. Alienation is a sad, everyday fact of life. they are desperate people in a society that is failing them.
The story uses dual timeframes of a single day. Firstly we see the children’s crises unfold from their perspectives. Later the day is repeated using the parents’ experiences as the focus. The threads are tied together by the use of characters that link the narrative both directly and indirectly.
There are haunting scenes:
Two mothers visit the mortuary. One regains some hope, as the other screams unforgettably in despair.
A mother and father sit in a hospital emergency waiting room, separated by an empty seat and a crowded past.
A man cries for his stolen youth and his lost mother.
A woman cradles the unborn child in her womb, both facing a seemingly hopeless future.
The cast is outstanding, showing the depth of both experienced (Miranda Otto, William McInnes, Frances O’Connor, Deborra-Lee Furness, Monica Maughan, Wayne Blair) and new (Eamon Farren, Sophie Lowe, Harrison Gilbertson, Eva Lazzaro, Reef Ireland ) talent in Australian cinema.
McInnes plays the only father in this patchwork of relationships. He convincingly captures the essence of this lost soul, who is petrified, in both senses of the word, by life. Otto and O’Connor each leaves us with a lasting image as she dances, one of hope and the other of desperation.
Blessed is a dark drama that should touch you to the core.