THREE BLIND MICE
Three young Australian naval officers on 24 hour shore-leave hit the streets of Sydney before being shipped out to Iraq. The dynamic between the three friends is uneasy, and tinged with malice: Sam (Ewen Leslie) has more than one reason to be looking for a way out; Dean (Toby Schmitz) is anxious to reconnect with his girlfriend and is burdened by some kind of guilt; Harry (Matthew Newton) is full of attitude and bent on a night of excess.
Review by Louise Keller:
With ingredients as incongruous as the nursery rhyme of its title, Matthew Newton's Three Blind Mice is an enticing surprise package. It's a bit like a stick of dynamite. It takes off as soon as the cameras roll; the bang comes at the end. And there are plenty of fireworks in the middle. Newton's screenplay about three clean-cut young marine officers adrift on overnight leave in Sydney after 6 claustrophobic months onboard is fresh and dynamic. While the underlying themes of mateship and betrayal are deadly serious, the film is liberally sprinkled with light touches and humorous pleasantries. And Newton has glued it all together with disarming ease, resulting in a thoroughly engaging film that feels somewhat improvised and whose rawness jumps off the screen.
The story begins with laughs and a beer in a hotel room, where the three Marines unwind. While he is in the shower, we quickly learn that something bad has gone down with Sam (Ewen Leslie), but we don't know the details. And we are distracted because Newton's smooth-talking Harry gets busy on the phone, surreptitiously organising a surprise midnight encounter for Sam. Toby Schmitz's Dean is more interested in the upcoming dinner with his fiancé's parents. It's an eventful journey that spirals; we enjoy tagging along.
The three leads deliver all the goods, convincing us dramatically of the highs and lows in their relationships. Sam and Dean endure the biggest emotional shifts, with Harry seemingly treading water in between. Our emotional journey (as well as that of the three Marines) is not what we expect, nor are the characters we meet on the way. There's playful banter on a rooftop, shots of grog and poker in a back room, foreplay in French and dinner in a karaoke club with unsuitable conversation. I especially like Gracie Otto's carefree barmaid who dislikes chocolate cake and flowers - but enjoys sex being on top (she also edited the film) and that first scene when wonderful Jackie Weaver opens the door is a knock out. (Look out for Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, in one of his final roles.) Barry Otto and Heather Mitchell are great as Dean's parents and Pia Miranda is lovely as the girl who wants life to be wonderful, lucky and full of love. It's a pleasure to see familiar faces like Marcus Graham, Alex Demitriades, Brendan Cowell, Alex Dimitriades and Tina Bursill in small, but impactful roles.
I have a few small quibbles - I found some of the dialogue hard to follow, some of the camerawork is jumpy and I didn't buy that inebriated scene after dinner. But I love all those little dialogue throwaways ('Mum, turn down the Cilla Black'; 'all the 'U' countries, like Yugoslavia') and the way Newton keeps us guessing right up till the very end. There's a nice jazzy score, too. It's a dense, original film by a natural filmmaker and has plenty going for it - drama, humour and a twist. Recommended.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A soup of human interaction, Three Blind Mice is a fascinating film. It takes us inside more than three characters as a night of doubts and certainties clash. You can tell that the filmmakers are interested in the character stories by the way the film is shot: close ups on faces, where we can observe emotions being born, grow up, turn adolescent and mature in a few seconds. It's about people we all know, if not by name, certainly by nature.
The complexity of the screenplay is matched by the complexity of the characters, and as we whirl through the night, we learn how fragile they all are. We all are. Matthew Newton's incredibly mature script is given full airing in his direction; the interplay between the many characters is visceral and tangible all at once, just like life.
Gracie Otto is fabulously vibrant as Emma, a life force which propels much of the film's emotional grunt. Ewen Leslie is remarkable as Sam, the conflicted sailor whose journey is so crucial to the film. And Matthew Newton is understated as the vulnerable, edgy Harry, who is in fact a neutral pivot who nevertheless glues them all together. So many of the scenes make emotional contact that we don't really need the detail; it's as if we are absorbing the film's mood in one big gulp.
The entire cast - many from Australian acting nobility - makes a huge contribution to our sense of danger, love and betrayal that infuses the film in its many detailed scenes. I called it a soup of human interaction before, because it's often not the detail of what we hear or see that matters, but the cumulative effect. Unlike the cheap shots of a populist screenplay, Three Blind Mice gives us perpelexion, conundrum and ambiguity as the central tenets of the human condition. That's what I mean by mature.
Three Blind Mice is not populist; it is not a film for the masses. But it will survive as a work of lasting value.
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THREE BLIND MICE (M)
CAST: Matthew Newton, Ewen Leslie, Toby Schmitz, Tina Bursill, Brandan Cowell, Alex Dimitriades, Bob Franklin, Marcus Graham, Jody Kennedy, Eloise Mignon, Pia Miranda, Heather Mitchell, Barry Otto, Gracie Otto, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, Jacki Weaver
PRODUCER: Ben Davis
DIRECTOR: Matthew Newton
SCRIPT: Matthew Newton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hugh Miller
EDITOR: Gracie Otto
MUSIC: John Foreman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Finch
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Titan View
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne Nova: August 20; Sydney Chauvel & The Edge: September 4, 2009; State, Hobart: September 4, 2009