Six very different men - Paul (Paul Gleeson), Freddy (Steve Rodgers), Cecil (Don Reid), Lucas (Steve Le Marquand), Moses (Paul Tassone) and Alex (Grant Dodwell) - meet once a week at Paul's home to talk. When they begin they are complete strangers. They soon discover that they have something in common: being male. As trust grows between them they gradually begin to share as they learn to listen to each other. They discover that they are not quite so alone in their fears as they had presumed. It takes a tragedy for the men to finally understand that they must take responsibilities for their own lives and those of their loved ones.
Review by Louise Keller:
Like the ordinary men who go along to this men's group, we have no idea what to expect. It becomes obvious as we meet the unwilling participants one by one, despite their differences and the diversity of their problems, there are commonalities. It's not really a therapy session, but Paul Gleeson's Paul has opened up his lounge room to a bunch of strangers, offering them a safe environment in which to sit, connect, listen and talk about themselves and their lives. The production values are as raw as the emotions and we become involved in the lives of these men who initially hide their feelings behind a tirade of anger, a wall of silence or a barrage of jokes. It's a powerful film that is often as unexpected as life itself and first time director Michael Joy who co-wrote the script with John L. Simpson, allows a sense of spontaneity to the strong performances and the final outcome.
The mood is awkward as the men meet and talk about nothing in particular. The first topic is the confusion that they are all feeling and Paul as moderator makes no demands on any of them - they are free to contribute or not contribute or to leave the house if they prefer. Between sessions we meet each of the men in their own environments and get an insight into their daily lives and the kind of people they are.
All the performances are heartfelt - especially Steve Rodgers as Freddy, the overweight, divorced father whose string of jokes are nothing but a shield for his heartbreak. Grant Dodwell is also excellent as Alex, the aggressive father who wonders why his teenage son is a problem child. There are no easy solutions and only small victories for this group of men thrown together in a whirlwind of emotional chaos, but the journey is a fine one.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With scant explanations and little more than hints at how and why this group of men have weekly meetings at Paul's (Paul Gleeson) home, Men's Group takes us into the inner torment that I suspect many, many men go through in some form, at some time in their lives. Perhaps all their adult lives, in some cases. The father/child relationship is at the heart of this extended psychotherapy session for an audience that is sucked into the group's brittle dynamic.
Anguish, regret, pain and sheer bafflement are the emotions the men gradually confront, but not before bravado, anger, violence, inner agony and panic burst like puss from a squeezed pimple out of their souls. Gutwrenching performances make riveting viewing as the cast makes themselves individually vulnerable in their roles.
The past informs the present, and we see how damage done is damage repeated; how emotional distance between parent and child can cut an emotional swathe through entire lives. Some men may find the film too confronting or frightening, others will welcome the freedom promised through the pain of bringing to the surface those hidden hand-grenades that will not stop exploding.
The glimpses of the men away from the group are short but telling, and while some may seem predictable (Confucius say, the tightest wound spring unwinds the most dramatically), they all contribute to the holistic vision the filmmakers pursue.
There are a few flaws (and some muffled lines of dialogue), but the film hits its targets and provokes a variety of responses, depending on each of us.
Email this article
MEN'S GROUP (MA)
CAST: Grant Dodwell, Don Reid, Paul Gleeson, Steve Rodgers, Steve Le Marquand, Paul Tassone, William Zappa,
PRODUCER: John L. Simpson
DIRECTOR: Michael Joy
SCRIPT: Michael Joy, John L. Simpson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Geoffrey Wharton
EDITOR: Stuart Morley
MUSIC: Haydn Walker
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alex Holmes
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Titan View
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: November 6, 2008; Sydney: November 13, 2008