ILLUSTRATED FAMILY DOCTOR, THE: DVD
Gary Kelp (Samuel Johnson) is shocked to discover that his father's body was 'harvested' for organ transplants - with his mum's (Sarah Pierce) blessing. Back at work for the publishers, Info Digest, Gary's computer screen pulses with goitres, tumours and diseased monstrosities, images from The Illustrated Family Doctor, a medical guide that Gary is condensing for the mail-order market. The assignment and images disturb Gary, but veteran colleague Ray (Colin Friels) encourages him. Then he starts inheriting the symptoms he is reading about: a rash on his neck travels to his arms and then his face. His eyes become infected. He starts to piss blood. Jennifer (Kestie Morassi), Gary's girlfriend is a nurse but she can't help him - besides, she's sick of their relationship. Meanwhile Gary finds himself more and more intrigued by Ray's daughter, the mysterious and secretive Christine (Jessica Napier). Company boss Bob Boundary (Brian Meegan) is starting to carve up his work force in the name of efficiency. And a mysterious underworld figure known as Snapper Thompson (Paul Sonkkila) is stalking Gary in the company corridors.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Decorated by several quietly amusing moments, The Illustrated Family Doctor is an ambitious attempt at adapting a work of literature into a work of cinema. The novel's imagery and symbolism is not easily captured and the characters aren't readily drawn. It's always problematic and while there are touches of brilliance in this film, there are too many flat, unresolved elements to make it engaging.
The tone of the film is downbeat, which is not necessarily a negative at all; I am drawn to the melancholy and find it more interesting than the bright and bubbly. But the characters must be tangible; I can watch a credible, three dimensional character do nothing. And the elements taken from a book can be selective, but they need to be connected and cohesive. Otherwise, there is the risk of boring those who are not in on the novel's joke/s. Or it has to be as wildly visionary as The Singing Detective, where fantasy and reality fuse into painful but high voltage cinema.
The performances can't be faulted; every one is outstanding, from Samuel Johnson's rotting Gary to Colin Friels' enigmatic Ray to Brian Meegan's wonderfully observed and real Bob the boss. Kestie Morassi and Jessica Harper are terrific and deliver contrasting femmes, and even the smallest cameos are memorable, eg; in the hospital scenes, where Gary's room mates provide totally unnecessary fun. Sacha Horler's talents make her relatively small but important role as Gary's sister a really haunting character.
So while the film celebrates its anti-traditionalist sensibilities, and has the confidence of its conviction even when the material is superfluous, it can't capitalise on it. It plays as an episodic collection, and suffers from the staginess of it. There is certainly a prodigious talent at work in Kriv Stenders' direction, but the script could have been keel-hauled to streamline it, to give it more edge and more dynamic shape, and to release the black energy that presumably drives the novel. Ironically, that's what Ray does: cut out the superfluous bits. He should have had a crack at editing this script.
Published December 13, 2007
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ILLUSTRATED FAMILY DOCTOR, THE: DVD (MA)
CAST: Samuel Johnson, Colin Friels, Jessica Napier, Brian Meegan, Sacha Horler, Kestie Morassi, Sarah Pierce
PRODUCER: Catherine Kerr
DIRECTOR: Kriv Stenders
SCRIPT: Kriv Stenders, David Snell (novel by David Snell)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kevin Hayward
EDITOR: Denise Haratzis
MUSIC: Tom Ellard
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Elizabeth Mary Moore
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 3, 2005
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: December 5, 2007