Ruben Guthrie
dir-scr Brendan Cowell
prd Kath Shelper
with Patrick Brammall, Alex Dimitriades, Abbey Lee, Harriet Dyer, Robyn Nevin, Jack Thompson, Jeremy Sims, Brenton Thwaites, Aaron Bertram, Blazey Best, Michael Lahoud, Kasia Stelmach
release Aus 16.Jul.15, UK Oct.15 lff
15/Australia 1h33
Ruben Guthrie
Circle of chairs: Dyer, Brammall and Nevin

dimitriades thompson thwaites
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Ruben Guthrie It seems obvious that an Australian filmmaker would make a movie about alcoholism into a blackly hilarious comedy. What's surprising is that the serious undercurrents are just as pungent, and that the film never slips into the usual simplistic approach to the topic. As a result, it's both entertaining and thought provoking.

Award-winning ad man Ruben (Brammall) is living the high life in Sydney. When he injures himself in a drunken stunt, it's the last straw for his supermodel fiancee Zoya (Lee), who goes home to Prague and tells him to take a year and sort himself out. With help from his no-nonsense mum (Nevin), Ruben begins a 12-step programme, fending off temptation from his hard-drinking father (Thompson), his boss Ray (Sims) and his party-monster gay best mate Damian (Dimitriades). Then he falls for his sponsor Virginia (Dyer), who seems to be addicted to love.

Adapting his own play, Cowell directs the film with a terrific sense of humour, filling scenes with snappy banter and especially vivid characters. And the glossy waterfront locations give the film unusual settings: these aren't drunken losers on the skids, these are high-fliers living in paradise. Furthermore, the film continually questions the orthodoxy that a 12-step programme is a universal solution, noting that not everyone who has trouble due to drink is an addict.

The actors adeptly bring this complexity into their roles. At the centre of the storm, Brammall keeps Ruben thoroughly sympathetic. Even those unable to identify with his lifestyle will root for him to sort out his relationships. Everyone around Ruben presents him with a different kind of temptation to carry on partying. Nevin is marvellously wry, Sims as an alcoholic in denial and, in the film's most complex role, Dyer as a woman overcompensating for her own paranoia. And Dimitriades steals every scene as a character who's the centre of everyone's attention. Especially his own.

Most unusual is the way Cowell manages to celebrate the lubricating effects of alcohol while simultaneously commenting on its dangers. Throw family pressures and career issues into the mix, and the film finds a lot to say about modern urban life. Everyone thinks Ruben merely needs to get his drinking in check, while he knows it's all or nothing. And this is the film's central point: there isn't one easy answer, ultimately each person has to deal with these issues for him or herself.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 17.Oct.15 lff

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall