‘Dead Europe’

Dark, morose adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ seemingly unfilmable novel sees the death of a father in suburban Sydney result in a son’s return to the ancestral homeland in a remote part of Greece.

When Isaac (Ewen Leslie – The Daughter, The Nightingale) decides to take his father’s ashes back to Greece, he is acting against his mother’s wishes. But, in travelling to Europe, he discovers a schism in the extended family and, on a trip to his parent’s village, Isaac learns of his father’s dark secret and cursed history.

Neither parent had set foot in their homeland since leaving several decades earlier and slowly, Isaac begins to understand more. What he dismisses as superstition becomes something much darker and he is forced to confront the violent rumours of anti-Semitism of the past, the embedded bigotry in ‘old’ Europe and the nature of inherited guilt. As he searches for understanding, Isaac heads to Budapest and his estranged brother Nico (a deeply chilling Marton Csokas – The Last Duel, The Equalizer), a man involved in the gay-porn slave-trade.

It’s a bleak, twisted narrative from Tsiolkas and director Tony Krawitz (TV’s The Kettering Incident, Ready For This) that highlights the broken corruption of time before Isaac’s birth and their consequences in the present day. But the result a cold and emotionless feature.

Rating: 40%


A metaphorical rite of passage for Australian indigenous 21-year-old Djali (Hunter Page-Lochard), Spear is a creative cinematic dance drama from Stephen Page, artistic director of Bangarra Dance Company.

Steeped in cultural traditions but living in a westernised world, Djali journeys through men’s stories as he symbolically moves from adolescence to manhood, reconciling his identity as an indigenous male in contemporary Australian society. As, shot mostly in shadow, he and his male peers explore through movement distinct issues of adolescence and adulthood, so Aaron Pedersen (High Ground, Mystery Road) provides the only spoken commentary, a litany of concerns and issues facing the aboriginal male.

It’s a beautiful unravelling of dance and movement whether set in studios or the bush where movement is contextualised within its natural setting. Powerful, sublime storytelling complemented by a pitch-perfect soundtrack from the late David Page.

Rating: 72%

‘The Babadook’

Psychological horror in the suburbs of Adelaide as a single mum confronts the fears of her son and the monster contained within their home.

Struggling with the grief of losing her husband in a car accident several years earlier, Amelia (Essie Davis – Nitram, Babyteeth) is exhausted by the demanding Samuel’s (Noah Wiseman) nighttime routines and daytime aggression. As their relationship unravels, so the Babadook increases its presence in their everyday.

A sublime study of psychosis and PTSD as Amelia subconsciously blames Samuel for her husband’s death, The Babadook, with its excellent central performances, is a provocative and scary horror movie directed by Jennifer Kent (The Nightingale) in her feature film debut.

Winner of the 2015 AACTA award for best Australian Film.

Rating: 68%


An air of political menace and disorder pervades the early scenes of director Nicolas Roeg’s film debut, resulting in two young children left stranded in the blistering heat of the vast inhospitable Australian outback.

With both still dressed in their school uniforms, teenage Jenny Agutter (The Avengers, The Railway Children) takes responsibility for her younger brother (Luc Roeg). Facing starvation and heat exhaustion, they cross paths with an aboriginal teenager (David Gulpilil – The Tracker, The Proposition) on walkabout – a boy’s ritual in which he must leave his home and learn to survive off the land.

A magical, mystical mood piece, an allegory of the clash of two cultures, Walkabout is adapted from the novel by Donald G. Payne and director Roeg (Don’t Look Now, Insignificance) created a mesmerising, groundbreaking (in its day) narrative highlighting the moral poverty of western values and civilisation.

Rating: 78%

‘Muriel’s Wedding’

A touching, dark comedy from 1994, Muriel’s Wedding is something of an Australian classic and introduced both Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths to the world of film.

Social outcast, ABBA fan and unemployed, Muriel (Toni Collette – The Sixth Sense, Nightmare Alley) dreams of marriage as she drifts through dull, suburban life in Porpoise Spit, Queensland. Dad Bill (Bill Hunter – The Square, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) is a corrupt misogynist local councillor whilst the voiceless mom (Jeanie Drynan – Paperback Hero, Don’s Party) is a drudge to the rest of the layabout family. Escaping to Sydney, Muriel rooms with Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths – Hilary and Jackie, Hacksaw Ridge) and her life changes forever.

It’s light, it’s frothy, a dancing queen of a narrative that delves briefly into poignant, serious moments before writer/director PJ Hogan (My Best Friend’s Wedding, Mental) moves quickly on. Both women prove to be each other’s Waterloo at different points in a crowd-pleaser of a feature as Muriel travels a path of self-awareness and discovery.

Rating: 72%

‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’

Essentially a two-hander, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a disappointing telling of a philosophical fairytale as a lonely scholar is given three wishes.

In Istanbul for a conference, the flat-shoed, flat Mancunian accented academic, Alithea (Tilda Swinton – I Am Love, Michael Clayton) picks up a glass bottle from the bazaar. Cleaning it reveals a Djinn (Idris Elba – Thor, Beasts of No Nations) who grants her three wishes in return for his freedom. Being the academic she is, Alithea takes her time.

As they ponder and discuss the three things Alithea most desires, the Djinn recounts his life with director George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road, Babe) creating a world of short fantasies to accompany its telling. From the Ottoman Empire to present day London, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a homage to love. But it’s all a little flat, wordy and unengaging with little chemistry between the two leads.

Rating: 51%


A biopic of a showman by a showman as director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby) hits the ground running with a full-throttle energy that is Elvis. Yet, with its narrative framed within the context of Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks – Castaway, Big), there’s an element of restraint from a director known for excess splash.

From heartthrob teenager threatening, with his stage gyrations, the fabric of 1950s white American respectability to an overweight, drug-addled 42 year-old and an early death, Presley was a true star. But Presley’s manager was a gambling addict and fraudster, sucking the singer dry from a multi-million dollar career.

As the young Elvis, an energetic Austin Butler (Dune, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood) excels (he struggles a little in the later years) in the high melodrama beloved by Luhrmann. But Elvis avoids the pitfalls of detail. Instead, as we move quickly through the decades, high-octane snapshots sit alongside insightful moments of quiet as the complex relationships with Parker and his father (Richard Roxburgh – Moulin Rouge, Breath) unfold. With the marriage to Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge – The Visit, Better Watch Out) crumbling, Elvis looks more to the record-breaking five seasons in Vegas and an increasingly desperate Parker needing to hold on to his meal ticket.

Nominated for 8 Oscars in 2023 including best film, actor, cinematography production design

Rating: 69%

‘Head On’

Controversial Christos Tsoliakos novel Loaded adapted for the big screen, Head On is a confronting, sexualised drama of acceptance and rebellion.

Eldest son in a migrant Greek family, unemployed 19 year-old Ari (Alex Dimitriades – TV’s The Slap, The Principal) constantly clashes with his father. Good looking and a popular lad around the predominantly Greek Sydney neighbourhood, Ari is a closeted gay male involved in drugs and furtive sexual encounters.

Director Ana Kokkinos (The Book of Revelation, Blessed) perfectly captures the insular migrant environment of early 1990s Australia with its brutal, dog-eat-dog world of survival as Ari, with a mix of vulnerability and arrogance, confronts family and friends within his double life.

Rating: 64%


Adapted from a storyline within the novel The Dark Room by British writer Rachel Seiffert, Lore explores the impact politics and war has on ordinary, young lives.

As panic ensues with the Russian army moving into Germany, 14 year-old Lore (Saskia Rosendahl – Never Look Away, TV’s Berlin Babylon) is charged by her parents, senior members of the Nazi Party, with the safety of her four younger siblings. They must head north west and the relative safety of Hamburg and their grandparents. A country ravaged by war and faced with starvation, Lore must find a way to protect as she is confronted by the results of her parents beliefs – including needing the help of a young Jew (Kai-Peter Malina – The White Ribbon, Pilgrim) to travel cross-country.

An Australian/German coproduction directed by Cate Shortland (Somersault, Black Widow) and shot in German, Lore is a raw yet impressionistic gem of tension, fear and sensuality with a sublime soundtrack provided by Max Richter adding to the harrowing end of innocence.

Rating: 78%


The vast, barren Australian outback creates an unforgiving setting as two drifters stumble across an enormous gold nugget – so vast it disappears deep below the surface.

An undetermined dystopian future and Zac Efron (The Greatest Showman, Hairspray) has arranged a lift across the desert with Anthony Hayes (Animal Kingdom, The Rover). A rough journey of several days lies ahead. But a breakdown leads to unexpected potential riches. One needs to stay, the other drive on to return with digging equipment. It’s Efron left to survive the terrors of the desert.

A lack of gravitas undermines a story of survival and greed as the unnamed Efron is left to contend with the merciless sun, raging thirst, boredom, wolves, hallucinations – and a third drifter (Susie Porter – Cargo, Ladies in Black) who will not go away. Outcomes are predictable in the Anthony Hayes-helmed feature (Ten Empty, New Skin) where all concerned try hard in this bleak tale but which ultimately fails to shine.

Rating: 44%