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Sugar Factory, The
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by Filmink Magazine (owes us money)

"Engaging and well paced."
3 stars

There are plenty of directors who double up as scriptwriter. But there couldn't be too many who have written the script based upon their own novel. Robert Carter did just that with his debut feature, which recently won the Hollywood Film Festival prize for best feature film made for more than $1 million.

Day plays Harris, a 17-year-old misfit who's having a bit of trouble being a normal teenager with normal friends. In fact, it appears he has none, except for the divorced mother of two (Findleton) living down the road, who he's desperately in love with. With the pretext of mowing her lawns, Harris spends most of his time at her house, and one day is entrusted with the task of babysitting her kids. This ends in tragedy, with the youngest daughter dying after being stuck in a refrigerator in a game of hide and seek.

Harris' guilt, together with unresolved disturbing images and scenes that play themselves out in his head, drives him to increasingly anti-social behaviour (such as pissing on the table at his brother's wedding) and a halfway house for troubled adolescents.

There is some solid acting by the reliable Day, with a standout performance by Hayes (The Boys) as one of Harris' more pathological fellow inmates. The story is engaging and well paced enough to maintain the momentum in the downward spiral into adolescent hell.

That said, the film is severely limited by its failure to justify the characters and the plot. The explanation of Harris' flashbacks to early childhood seems wholly underwhelming when we finally do learn what's been troubling him, while at other times, paths are taken in the plot and not pursued, or great gaps have been left out in the logical progression of events. You shouldn't have to ask yourself things like "why the hell does Harris think pounding sandstone into powder is a process of making sugar?" or "why does Harris carry that bolt around, anyway?" You can only imagine that 100 minutes is way too short to convey the essence of the novel.

Probably the biggest contributing factor stems from the director being so close to the original work, that he didn't have enough objective vision to know what works and what doesn't. ---Lachlan Gilbert

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originally posted: 02/26/99 02:19:55
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7/31/04 john amazon 5 stars
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Directed by
  Robert Carter

Written by
  Robert Carter

  Matt Day
  Rhonda Findleton
  John Waters
  Tony Hayes
  Michela Noonan
  Eliot Paton

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