BAPFF Review: Downriver
Kristina Sams | On 08, Dec 2015
â€œIâ€™ve always had an unhealthy obsession with crime, and true crime, and I just really love getting inside a true crime and asking all sorts of questions of it.â€ â€“ Grant Scicluna, director.
Sciclunaâ€™s feature debut Downriver followed James (Reef Ireland), a recently paroled young adult convicted of killing a boy as a child. James returned to the scene of the crime to conduct his own investigation into the truth despite his faded memory. Ordered to stay away from the only witness at the time, James finds himself drawn back into a deadly game where the innocent were unknowingly participants and where current tragic outcomes started to mirror past events.
From the opening frame, the film posed questions to its audience and called for trust and acceptance. The sparse mise-en-scÃ¨ne was an allegory for the characters. Eerie, suspenseful and full of tension, the film made one ponder what makes a good person do bad things, and whether a bad person actually can be good. Scicluna tackled some big issues such as mental health, family dynamics, sexuality and personal discovery through engaging and powerful storytelling.
Tom Greenâ€™s antagonist Anthony was manipulative and vindictive – however, you could not help but sympathise with him as he was shown to be a product of an abusive household. Charles Grounds’ character Damien was more than a story device and romantic tool for both protagonist and antagonist – Damien was a vehicle for the characters to implode, allowing their true natures to be revealed. The supporting cast (Kerry Fox, Robert Taylor and Helen Morse) all gave honest performances as they scrambled for normalcy in their â€˜complicatedâ€™ lives.
LÃ¡szlÃ³ Baranyaiâ€™s cinematography was breathtaking and almost personified. Long tracking shots of the Yarra River and drained colour palette provided a sinister backdrop to Jamesâ€™ search for the truth. Each filmic element (image, sound, action) built layers, as the audience was gradually given pieces of the puzzle. Each creative process was carefully selected, fitted and edited, divorcing sound from image and overlaying sequences to create a surrealis uneasy vibe.
â€œMusic is only in the second half of the film and I very deliberately wanted to withhold things. Score was one, shots of the river was another one. When they finally come, you as an audience, have earned the rightâ€¦ they are protracted moments, in a way, of score.â€ â€“ Grant Scicluna.
Downriver will be released in Australian cinemas March 2016.
Images: Happening Films