Bull Durham may disagree, but baseball, with its three strikes and you’re out rule, doesn’t add much of a frame to a perseverance meme.
Australian Rules Football (AFL), on the other hand, is a much better crest for pushing on in this game we call life; we may fall, we may get tossed about a bit, we might even drop the ball sometimes, but it’s never over until that final siren blows – and until then you just keep kicking, keep moving forward, and recurrently and tactically plan your next move. Sometimes the play is successful, sometimes it isn’t, but what matters is that you’re still in the game – and while that is, there’s still a chance to make time with those goal posts.
With his latest effort ”Blinder”, Australian writer/director Richard Gray (“Summer Coda”) mows his field in that ubiquitous reminder that one wrong turn can take you right off course, but with determination, insistence and, notably, the gift of time you can realign yourself with the blue dot on the GPS.
Gray’s film, a love letter to both AFL (it’s been quite a spell since the filmish take on “The Club”, hasn’t it!?) and life’s somewhat imperceptible lessons, tells the story of a young man who, after one unfortunate incident, sees his life (and future career as an AFL footballer) slowly disappear and weaken – yes, much like the photo Marty’s holding of his siblings in that ‘Prom’ scene in “Back to the Future”.
Set (and largely filmed) in the small coastal town of Torquay in Victoria, “Blinder” looks at what happens to a group of teammates on a local football team after they’re involved in a rather squalid scandal.
Ten years after the incident – one that caused a rift between him and his team-mates, not to mention scarred his name in the community – Tom Dunn (Oliver Ackland, “Wasted on the Young”) returns home to Torquay – having been working and living in Boston, USA – where he’s forced to face his demons and ultimately, put the Torquay Tigers jersey back on.
With their mutual love of football as an aid, and with constant reminders of his beloved late coach ‘Chang’ (Jack Thompson) wherever they go, Dunn and his old friends (primarily Josh Helman, Angus Sampson, and Bob Morley) try and put the past behind them – though not before some hard truths and say-all brawls – so that they can finally move on from a night they all regret.
Gray’s film works so well because, aside from the fact he’s co-written (with Michelle Davis-Gray and Scott Didier) an intelligent, realistic and very affecting human piece, he’s masterfully filled each position with the best on field.
The acting is superb with the writers’ well-written, thoroughly fleshed out, disparate bunch all assigned enriching, deep and memorable performances from the likes of Ackland, who essentially carries the movie, Anna Hutchison and Rose McIver, both giving their all in their brave, emotion-doused performances as the sisters caught up in the scandal Rose and Sam, respectively, and the legendary Jack Thompson, in one of his better parts in recent years, an absolute powerhouse as the cinematic counterpart of a mighty motivational postcard in Coach Chang.
Coupled with Greg De Marigny ‘s beautiful cinematography (from the on-oval action to Torquay’s aqua waters, it all looks a treat on screen), Alies Sluiter’s heart-punching score, and VCA grad Gray’s ostensible determination to make an Aussie film that loses the spoon (feed yourself, cinemagoer!) while remaining broadly appealing and intelligent, one can help but barrack for this beauty.
In the current landscape of Aussie movies, “Blinder” is best and fairest on the field.
A bloody beauty!