Film review – Blessed (2009)

8 September 2009
Stacey (Eva Lazzaro) and Orton (Reef Ireland)

Stacey (Eva Lazzaro) and Orton (Reef Ireland)

Blessed is a film about seven children and five mothers, told over a twenty-four hour period first from the perspective of the children and then from the perspective of the mothers. The five intertwining stories are all about children who have either literally or spiritually run away or become lost to their mothers. A 14-year-old boy has run away from his neglectful mother but is followed by his younger sister, two 15-year-old school girls skip school to go shoplifting, another run-away boy is sexually exploited, another boy commits an unintentional act of violence and a young adult Indigenous man struggles with the fact that he was raised by a white woman.

Directed by Ana Kokkinos, who made the contemporary Australian classic Head On, Blessed is initially hampered by some very stagy dialogue. This is likely to be directly attributed to the fact that Blessed first began as an adaptation of the play Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? Nevertheless, the film does find its rhythm reasonably quickly and its initial disjointedness makes much more sense once you reach the half-way point in the film and realise that you’ve only witnessed the day’s events from one set of perspectives.

Rhonda (Frances O'Connor)

Rhonda (Frances O'Connor)

Blessed is a difficult film because not all of it works and it takes a while to penetrate. At times it feels too much like it wallows in every type of unpleasant and depressing situation that could be imagined, as if it is ticking off Confronting Issues from a checklist. The inclusion of the Indigenous story in particular feels a little unnecessary. At the same time Blessed is an incredibly emotional and accomplished film with an astonishing use of music, colour and editing. Kokkinos achieves a remarkable degree of intimacy by shooting the majority of the film in tight close-ups and medium close-ups so that the faces of the actors are nearly always filling the screen. She certainly gets the best out of her cast as all the acting in Blessed is superb. However, the standout performance is Frances O’Connor (Three Dollars, Artificial Intelligence: AI). O’Connor’s portrayal of Rhonda, one of the mothers, is shattering and her final scenes in the film will linger with you for a long time. Blessed is uneven and overall not as good as Kokkinos’s other films but it nevertheless contains some of her best work to date.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

Interview with Blessed director Ana Kokkinos from The Casting Couch 5 September 2009

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