Face to Face Review

From Australia’s most acclaimed playwright, David Williamson, a moving and powerful new film about lies, betrayal, sex and bullying in the workplace. A young construction worker rams into the back of his boss’s Jaguar in a fit of anger at being sacked. Rather than fronting court, he’s given the chance to explain his actions in a community conference.

I hadn’t really heard anything about Face to Face until this week when I had the pleasure of seeing the film at an advance screening followed by a Q&A with the cast and crew (although David Williamson was unfortunately absent due to health problems). Made on an almost non-existent budget, Face to Face is a character drama that asks some hard questions about workplace bullying, and proves that Australian drama is still a force to be reckoned with.

Face to Face is a slow burning film, when we first join the characters they all seem to fit into the stereotypes that we so often see in film and TV, but the masks that they wear are slowly stripped away, revealing the very different people underneath.  Every one of the actors puts in a great performance here, playing their characters with honesty and conviction, even when it’s revealed that they are not necessarily the nicest people around. For anybody who has witnessed or been a victim of workplace bullying, this story will really hit home, asking some hard questions about the ‘joking around’ that happens in so many workplaces.

The film is structured around a remedial justice meeting – an alternative to the courts for first time offenders where they meet with the victims and try to work out a solution that suits both parties. Though the whole thing seems a little silly at first, it soon becomes clear that this is far from a straightforward process and the truths that might have been hidden in a courtroom have a habit of coming out in front of everyone. The script (both the original stageplay and the adaptation) were written in consultation with the lawyers who created the system, and is based around their experiences with the process. This basis in fact is felt clearly throughout the movie, making even the most startling revelations feel grounded in truth.

After failing to find funding from Screen Australia, Michael Rymer decided to put his own money on the line to get Face to Face off the ground and managed to convince everyone to work on it for little to nothing. The film was shot on 3 Canon 5D’s in 12 days, which is an impressive effort, but the rushed nature of the shoot does show in the final film. One thing that particularly bugged me about the film was the handheld camera style, which seemed to move around for no apparent reason. In discussion after the film, Rymer revealed that he made the choice to go handheld to speed things up and to avoid making the film look like it was just a recorded play. While I understand the reasoning behind it, I don’t think that it really worked in the end, but the film is strong enough to make it a minor problem. The film could have also done with a bit better lighting, the natural light was inconsistent, distracting from the meat of the film.

Overall, Face to Face is a great film that really demonstrates how a lack of budget can have little input on the final product. If you’re looking for a film to see in the next couple of weeks, I highly recommend that you go and see Face to Face. The Australian Film Industry needs more films of this quality, and the only way that’s going to happen is if people go and see it at the cinema.

Face to Face opens on September 8th in select cinemas. See the website for details.

What I Liked – Character driven drama. Great performances. Subversion of expectations.

What I Didn’t Like – Handheld camera style detracted from the drama. Inconsistent lighting.

Rating – 4 out of 5 (Really Enjoyable)

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