Seeking revenge for the suicide of their friend Alice, five friends Natalie, (Sophie Lowe), Cate (Kestie Morassi), Nick (Simon Stone), John (Mark Leonard Winter) and Anthony (Ashley Zukerman) attack music teacher Brendan (Damian de Montamas) in his remote country house, believing he was responsible for Alice's suicide. Confident that his own staged suicide will not be questioned, they overdose him on sleeping pills and type a suicide note. But it all goes wrong when their victim survives to fight for his life. In the aftermath, questions are raised about the true nature of the events leading up to the botched attack. As lies and secrets are revealed, the dynamic of the once-tight group shifts as the friends begin to question each other's motives. And the truth does not set them free.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A group of young friends are quick to judgment, but slow to consider their actions, setting off on a course that leads them into a dead end (pardon the pun). It's an edgy experience, as it is meant to be.
Blame is the kind of psychological thriller that could come out of the US, Canada or just about anywhere - except for the Australian sensibilities of the characters. In that sense, then, it's a universal film, told by Australians. Michael Henry's debut feature shows a promising cinematic talent, instinctively using the tools of cinema to immerse us in this restricted world - even though it's in the bush. He uses the wide screen of cinemascope to capture more than the centre of the frame and he uses sound to heighten his impact. He is also well supported by Tamil Rogeon's complex and varied score.
The story is well developed but it unfolds gradually to us. We are catapulted into the action and Henry slowly unravels the reason for it. These five friends have jumped to a conclusion that their friend, Cate's sister Alice, committed suicide because of how Bernard (Damian de Montamas) treated her. In the immediate aftermath of the funeral, still dressed in black, they sneak up on Bernard in his bush house and try to kill him in revenge - by faking his suicide.
Henry gradually teases out the secrets that only one of the five know - secrets that once revealed, become demons that won't be easily put down.
The ensemble cast (mostly unknowns with a couple of exceptions) all work well; de Montamas is a stand out as the victim in a challenging role and Mark Leonard Winter is charismatic with a minimalist approach. Sophie Lowe confirms her extraordinary screen presence - something eerily luminous about her comes through the camera that deepens every role she plays, adding a mysterious depth.
The film's consistent mood and its technical sophistication are impressive; little wonder Blame has screened at festivals from Chicago and Toronto to Buenos Aires and Cinema des Antipodes (Cannes Cinephiles 2011).
Published first in the Sun-Herald
Review by Louise Keller:
Here's a juicy revenge thriller that is crammed with tension, action, suspense and a couple of twists before its deadly resolution. It's the debut feature for Michael Henry, whose premise is as straightforward as its title. All the elements for good intrigue are in place: an isolated setting, a wrong to set right, complications and a turn of events.
The story begins with plenty of promise as we follow music teacher Bernard (Damian de Montemas) in his jeep as he heads along the long drive to his remote bush property home. As he places bags of shopping onto the kitchen bench, he hears a noise and before long, he is surrounded by five intruders wearing balaclavas. The fact that not a word is spoken as he is bound and gagged works greatly in the tension stakes. Little by little the reasons for the assault are revealed on a need-to-know basis. Bernard is blamed for the recent suicide death of a young student with whom he had an affair and those ready to vindicate her death each have a reason for their actions.
Although the drivers of the physical action are the three men (Simon Stone, Mark Leonard Winter, Ashley Zukerman), it is Kestie Morassi and Sophie Lowe who shine as the two women involved. It is the development of both their characters that is the most interesting element of the film; Morassi plays Cate, devastated sister to Alice the dead girl, while Lowe is Natalie, Alice's best friend and the one who always gets what she wants.
As things start to go wrong, the mood changes as does the relationship between the intruders. It all starts with a simple mistake - a mobile phone has been left behind. Tempers explode, panic sets in and irrational decisions are made. Our hopes are raised when a courier arrives (Greg McNeill is terrific as Rodney) and the scene when the noise of his loud car radio drowns Bernard's cries for help is tragi-comical.
The fact that they have come directly from Alice's funeral leads us to believe this has been a spur of the moment decision, so it is not surprising that things have not been properly thought through. But despite its 89 minute running time, Henry's screenplay seems to run out of puff and ideas early and there's a dip in the proceedings as the pace of the action diminishes. It does pick up again though, and with the help of Tamil Rogeon's moody score and Torstein Dyrting's cinematography, tension resumes, leaving us with an ending that is not only satisfying but one that prompts us to ask many disturbing questions.
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SOPHIE LOWE INTERVIEW
CAST: Damian de Montamas, Sophie Lowe, Kestie Morassi, Simon Stone, Mark Leonard Winter, Ashley Zukerman
PRODUCER: Ryan Hodgson, Melissa Kelly
DIRECTOR: Michael Henry
SCRIPT: Michael Henry
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Torsetin Dyrting
EDITOR: Meredith Watson Jeffrey
MUSIC: Tamil Rogeon
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Clayton Jauncey
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Pack Screen
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 16, 2011 (Sydney & Melbourne)