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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 6.67%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 20%
Total Crap: 6.67%

1 review, 9 user ratings

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by Filmnet

"A wonderfully honest depiction of one boy's alienation."
5 stars

It's understandable that a songwriter would be tempted by the enormous myth-making potential of films and have a go at writing one. Far more surprising is a brilliant result like 'Mallboy,' the well-paced, spunky little true-blue debut film written and directed by Vincent Giarrusso of the Underground Lovers.

In the opening scene we see a fifteen year old boy standing next to an escalator in a shopping mall. He is dressed, seemingly, as a walking advertisement for an array of American sports-clothing companies. It's the story of Shaun (Kane McNay from Sea Change), just a suburban boy, trying to negotiate adolescence in the outlying wastelands of Melbourne. He and his mates wag school, sniff glue, and hang out in the fluoro-lit, air-conditioned, rent-a-cop-patrolled environment of Northland Mall. There's things to look at there, like the boggling array of sneakers in a glorious sports shop display and there's the health-threatening round of chips, smokes and Coke.

Just beyond the shopping centre carpark we glimpse Merri Creek with its linear nature-park that no-one ventures near during the three days of this film. Home-life revolves around Shaun's fragile and sedated mum, Jenny, played achingly by Nell Feeney. Virtually a child herself, she bears, to cracking point, the pressure put on families by economic rationalism, loving her kids and maintaining a house with few personal or financial resources. She clings to the remnants of a romantic fantasy about the father of her three children (Brett Swain) but in a world where parents bludge fags from their kids, Dad offers nothing more substantial than a few dollars and a Nintendo.

The kids in this film, both the actors and the characters they play, are tremendously impressive and endearing. Like too many kids in this country who are forced to live in poverty and to care for exploited and confused adults, the characters are wonderfully resilient. Shaun's sisters played by Maxie Rickard and Sarah Naumoff bicker believably but also establish that there is a bond of love which binds them regardless. We anxiously watch young people struggling with awakening sexuality while the potential for tragedies goes unchecked.

Production designer, Brian Alexander, apparently knocked on doors in suburban Sunshine asking to take photos of loungerooms to get the 'big tv, videos, fluffy toys, ashtrays and no books'-look, just right. Everyone smokes, swears and eats crap in this tv-addicted, cluttered yet numbingly empty materialistic landscape. Giarrusso's clever dialogue is full of rawly realistic, tragic and magic interchanges like the potent but metaphorically bankrupt woman to woman, 'All men are fucking cunts, darling and don't you forget it.'

Experience as a youth worker has Giarrusso showing us the way 'welfare' creates and maintains a controlled underclass through a network of abuse and exploitation. Government social services that make up the lucrative unemployment industry and 'pensioner-farming' schemes don't help his characters. 'Community Police', youth workers and security guards are portrayed as equally dull tools of the state, really only helping themselves. Authority figures are to be avoided or lied to, including Shaun's smarming social worker (played by Brett Tucker) who outrageously claims to be a friend of the family.

Throughout all this, Brendan Lavelle's camera hangs back and observes, consciously imitating the style of activist British director, Ken Loach ('Ladybird Ladybird', 'Riff Raff', 'Raining Stones'). Petty 'crimes' of stealing and taking drugs are unremarkable, everyday events without consequences in this mercifully non-moralistic portrait of suburban life. Like the best work of Mike Leigh ('Secrets and Lies'), it challenges us not to be controlled by circumstances of family, class and culture.

'Mallboy' is a film about the collateral damage being done to Australian families by government policies. It's a modern, local story but of universal interest and relevance. Brimming with humour, grim reality and hope, it's an inspirational and moving 'one-of', a must-see rough diamond suitable for everyone over fourteen.--Andrew Bunney

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originally posted: 01/25/01 18:07:55
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User Comments

1/10/11 Jerome Geale One of the most underated australian films ever made... you must get a hold of this 5 stars
10/01/03 manda this film won't appeal 2 every1 but i enjoyed seeing the world from another perspective 5 stars
5/14/01 Mofo Working Dog sucks the big one! They should take tips from the Mallboy crew, the movie ruled 5 stars
3/19/01 J.Arcane pretty dire, a couple of moments though 2 stars
3/03/01 Bob Thompson Shithouse Film, another Australian dropkick film. Lets stick with working dog productions 2 stars
2/25/01 simon load of crap 1 stars
1/28/01 Belinda Small gem. Kids are great. I too danced to Suzi Q! 4 stars
12/05/00 neil bartlett these kids need to their mouths out with soap 2 stars
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Directed by
  Vincent Giarusso

Written by
  Vincent Giarusso

  Kane McNay
  Maxie Rickard
  Brett Swain
  Brett Tucker

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