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Stars: Eliza Scanlen, Ben Mendelsohn, Essy Davis, Toby Wallace, Emily Barclay

Director: Shannon Murphy

Despite the general public perception, critics, though perhaps intrinsically cynical, are by nature a kindly lot, seeking out the better qualities of all but the total dross, looking to let an unsuccessful director down as lightly as possible. Thus 'the film demands patience, but is lifted by its magical performances' in a review can be readily translated as 'this is really slow, though it does have redeeming qualities'.

Such a description more than adequately fits this Australian tear-jerker, in which the talented Scanlen, the doomed Beth from the recent Little Women, finds herself dying again, this time as the understandably angry teenage daughter of well-to-do, sexually active parents, played by Davis, from Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and The Babadook and character star Mendelsohn, who's good in everything and so brilliantly played King George VI in The Darkest Hour.

Unsuccessfully treated for some form of cancer, 16-year-old Milla (Scanlen), who has already lost all her hair, literally bumps into, and falls heavily for, small-time drug dealer Moses (Wallace), a charismatic but disreputable and confrontational tattooed 23-year-old. While her parents dither over how to handle this new development, the affair itself blows hot and cold.

With its inevitably tragic ending, slightly lightened by an additional scene, the film unfolds as a series of vignettes, which leave it with no forward momentum. And, despite the heart-wrenchingly detailed performances, it is almost so slow as to be described as stately; some of the camera-lingering here could surely have been pared down to reduce the film's too-long runtime.

Scanlen, though, couldn't be better as the violin prodigy denied an adult life and is surely destined for a star career. However, Eliza, do try not to die so often. Needless to say the film is not to be recommended for anyone suffering from any form of depression.

David Quinlan

Australia 2019. UK Distributor: Picturehouse. Colour (unspecified).
118 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 13 Aug 2020