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Australia 1995
Directed by
Michael Rymer
99 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Angel Baby

Were it not for the Australian accents you could easily mistake this for a UK production. John Lynch who plays the principal male is an imported Irish actor (his credits include Cal and In The Name Of The Father) whilst Colin Friels as his brother adopts a credible Irish accent. Its very tight framing virtually eliminates any reference to exterior locators, suggesting an anonymous urban landscape of empty malls, laundromats, high rises and construction sites that looks more like Glasgow or London (full marks to cinematographer Ellery Ryan for his contribution in this respect) than any recognisable Australian city, and its preoccupation with the tragedy of life is more the approach we’re familiar with in British productions than those of The Lucky Country. In this latter respect the film does tend to overstatement and is too darkly alienating for any kind of popular sucsess but on the other hand thanks to Rymer’s confrontational script and the excellent performances by Lynch and Jacqueline McKenzie (who is best known for her role in Romper Stomper) as distressed souls, it packs an emotional punch which is also something rarely seen in Australian film.
 
Despite its lack of vernacular signifiers Angel Baby won 7 AFI Awards. Although there is a discernible ambivalence that leaves one unsure for quite a while whether the film is intended as a real-life tragedy or black comedy it is an impressive achievement for the American-trained Rymer in his directorial debut. Unfortunately Rymer returned to America where he has written and/or directed a number of films of less-than-stellar proportions.

 

 

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