Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Matt Saville
Stars: Anthony LaPaglia, Julia Blake, John Clarke, Justine Clarke, Indiana Crowther, Donal Forde.
A Month Of Sundays is the third film from writer/director Matt Saville (a veteran of television with credits ranging from the telemovie The King to sitcom Please Like Me), and is something of a change of pace for a filmmaker widely considered as one of our best. His first two films were the multi-award winning Noise and Felony, both character-driven police dramas that explored themes of guilt, responsibility, family and secrets. A Month Of Sundays is a more introspective drama about a man undergoing a midlife crisis who gets a new lease on life after he meets an elderly woman. It deals with universal themes of family, loss, grief, mortality, dysfunctional relationships, the dream of owning your own home, regeret and redemption, and a variety of complex mother/son relationships.
The central character here is Frank Mollard (played by Anthony LaPaglia, from tv series Without A Trace, the recent Holding The Man, and AFI award winning dramas Balibo, Lantana, etc), a real estate agent who has fallen into a pit of despair and is sleepwalking through his life at the moment. He is having trouble selling houses, even in the midst of a real estate boom. His mother has recently died, he is still dealing with the breakdown of his marriage to Wendy (Justine Clarke), who is finding fame as the star of a new television medical drama, and is having difficulty relating to his teenaged son (newcomer Indiana Crowther). His job is selling houses that belong to the soon to be deceased, which further adds to his emotional turmoil and sense of grief.
Then he receives phone call from the elderly Sarah (Julia Blake), who accidentally rang his number when trying to call her own son. Intrigued by their brief conversation and the sense of comfort it briefly provided, Frank arranges to meet Sarah and through her he explores his own grief and emotional confusion. His presence soon proves an irritant to her real son Damien (Donal Forde), who works as an IT expert. But eventually Sarah becomes something of a surrogate mother figure and her wisdom and life experiences eventually help snap Frank out of his ennui and he begins to reconect with the world around him.
But unfortunately this earnest and well meaning but contrived melodrama is the lesser of Saville’s three films. It is uneven in both tone and pacing. There are problems with the script and the characterisation as we don’t really identify with some of the characters here or even care that much about them.
Veteran cinematographer Mark Wareham (Felony, BoyTown, etc) makes good use of the leafy tree lined suburban streets of Adelaide and gives the film a strong sense of location and a strong visual surface.
LaPaglia is good at conveying the fragility and vulnerability of the male psyche and he does a good job here bringing some unexpected layers to his nuanced portrayal of Frank. A nice touch sees Frank describe every location he enters in terse real estate terms: “Meticulously renovated family home; untouched period charm; late Victorian style; scope to further improve…” Although 79, Blake is still a formidable screen presence and she brings gravitas to her role as Sarah. But the best moments of the film centre around Frank’s shifty boss Philip (a scene stealing performance by comic John Clarke), a shifty hustler with a heart of stone. Clarke brings his usual dry, deadpan wit to the role and I wanted more of his character and less of the melodramatic stuff about dysfunctional families and midlife crises that we have seen in numerous other similarly themed films.
But overall A Month Of Sundays is a rather trite and pedestrian affair that will struggle to resonate with a wider mainstream audience.