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Australia 2004
Directed by
Craig Monahan
103 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars


Synopsis: In the small riverside town of Swan Reach is a peach cannery where Steph (Emma Lung) works, alongside her adoptive mother Jude (Jacqueline McKenzie), and under the watchful eye of foreman Alan Taylor (Hugo Weaving). When she is given a diary belonging to Jass, her dead mother, Steph makes important discoveries about her mother’s past, her Vietnamese father, Johnny, and how Alan and Jude fitted into the picture.

Peaches is an ambitious film which perhaps aims for more than it can deliver, and yet has many worthy themes. On the one hand there is the time-honored tale of discovering one’s roots and bringing that legacy into the present; then we have the coming-of-age/rites-of-passage bit, with Steph encountering love for the first time; top this off with the back story of cannery life and unionism in the 80s and juxtapose it with themes of industry closures and economic rationalism today, not to mention allusions to the refugee question and whew!! - it’s a lot to intertwine in one tale.

In places the film moves beautifully. The opening scene of the horrific accident which killed Jass and Johnny is powerful. Scenes of the canning line, evoking the mind-numbing boredom and claustrophobia of the factory, are well handled, as is the terrific contrast of workers escaping off to the idyllic Swan River for a bit of frolic. The 80s recreation, with its pastel palette, daggy clothes and hairdos, and, of course, music, is also persuasive. But at other times the film jumps around disconcertingly and the music is not always appropriate to the emotion of the scene.

Weaving’s performance is one of the main strengths of the film and he exudes an interesting aura of sexuality, despite his unappealing character. Because he plays in two time frames, the 80s and today, he must inhabit Alan Taylor’s character before life and disillusion got the better of him, and then after. This he achieves splendidly, but then again Weaving (who starred in The Interview, also directed by Monahan) has always been an actor of prowess and versatility. On the other hand, one of the problems for me was with Jacqueline McKenzie who does not look 20 years younger or older as the film switches time frames, although she portrays her changed character well. Newcomer Emma Lung has a delicate presence along with a certain sassiness, but at times her puppy-dog longing looks get a little overdone. Also notable is Matt le Nevez as Brian, Alan’s half brother, and the only character who seems to have a clear sense of what he wants from life.

Despite my criticisms, it’s great to see an Aussie film that is tackling solid subject matter and if it inspires anyone to re-consider escaping the rut they’re in, then that’s pretty peachy!




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