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  Little Fish Born Losers
Year: 2005
Director: Rowan Woods
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving, Martin Henderson, Noni Hazlehurst, Dustin Nguyen, Joel Tobeck, Lisa McCune, Susie Porter, Nina Lui, Linda Cropper, Daniella Farinacci, Ferdinand Hoang, Anh Do, Jason Chong, Anthony Wong, Bic Runga, Natasha Beaumont
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's the night of the class reunion of 32-year-old Tracy Heart (Cate Blanchett), but she needs quite a bit of persuading from her friend to go along. When she gets there, she stays for a while, but the whole thing just reminds her of what a let down her life has been up until now, and she eventually makes her excuses and leaves, meeting up with her mother, Janelle (Noni Hazlehurst), who asks her why ex-friend of the family Lionel (Hugo Weaving) has been trying to call her - the answer is that Tracy has given him her number. Tracy is an ex-heroin addict and Lionel is a current heroin addict, and she wants to see the best for him, but it's clear he should kick the habit if he wants to get on, which he may have to when his source for drugs, the local Mr Big, Brad (Sam Neill) plans to retire.

And so Tracy's, and everyone else's, problems mount up in this relentlessly miserable drama which was highly acclaimed in its native Australia. It has all the marks of a heavyweight story, so much so that if you had a checklist you could tick them off: drugs issues, serious themes, no less serious actors, a spot of swearing to make it sound more real life, not even a whiff of a happy ending in sight, you know the drill. Working from a script by Jacqueline Perske, this was based on an earlier concept by director Rowan Woods, and hammers its solemnity home with humourless gravity so that its only bright aspect is some excellent acting.

More of Tracy's problems include the fact that she needs bank loan so as to take over part of the video store business she is manager, but not owner, of. Predictably, with her history of petty crime that went to fund her drug habit she cannot secure that loan, and the bank tell her to come back when she has someone else's money to play with; nevertheless she tells everyone she has been successful in her dealings. As if that's not bad enough, her ex-boyfriend Johnny (Dustin Nguyen) returns from Canada having kicked his addiction and now earning serious cash as a stockbroker, or so he says, looking to rekindle the flame of his relationship with Tracy. But she's not in any state to pursue this.

This is the sort of film where two people will sit down at a restaurant table and before they order, one of them will say something like, "This was a mistake" or "I'd better go" and get up and leave before eating. Woods and Perske don't set all the plot points out plainly, but that doesn't quite disguise the feeling of having been here before, and by the tragic ending it all ends pretty much as you'd expect. Blanchett is the standout as the woman who's not getting any younger but is stuck living with her mother and seeing whatever prospects she once had dwindling away to nothing, but the performance is set in a glacially filmed but despairing trudge of a tale. Tracy also has a drug dealing brother, Ray (Martin Henderson) who is in partnership with Johnny and their arrangements may not be as entirely legal as Tracy would like to believe. Yes, it's the demon drugs that drag everyone down and I suppose we should be grateful that we joined the story after any scenes where we would have to suffer Blanchett shivering and rolling about on the floor going cold turkey. Music by Nathan Larson.

[The Region 2 DVD has as special features a making of featurette, deleted scenes with commentary, a trailer, a director interview and director commentary.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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