Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: JJ Winlove
Stars: Noni Hazlehurst, Claudia Karvan, Stephen Curry, Nash Edgerton, Darren Gilshenan, Otis Dhanji, Pip Edwards.
We’ve had several films that have dealt with the issue of dementia and the impact that this dreaded loss of faculties has had on family and loved ones – films like the recent The Father, Supernova and even Still Alice. This Australian feature tempers some of the more downbeat elements of this theme with generous doses of humour, warmth and compassion. June Again is the debut feature film from New Zealand born writer/director JJ Winlove, who cut his filmmaking teeth on a series of short films.
Five years ago June Wilton (Noni Hazlehurst), a formidable and powerful mother and businesswoman, suffered a massive stroke which left her suffering from vascular dementia. She is being cared for in a nursing home and is seemingly unaware of what is happening to her. The staff seem to be kind and understanding. Then one morning she wakes up lucid and feeling fine. Although warned by her doctor that this recovery may only be temporary, June sneaks away from the facility and attempts to reconnect with her family.
But she discovers that in her absence her family has fractured and nothing is as she remembers it. Each member of her family has endured some sort of hardship and is having trouble coping with the fallout. She learns that her home has been sold, and that the family wallpaper business has gone down market under the management of the sleazy David (Darren Gilshenan). Her son Devon (Stephen Curry) has not finished his architecture degree and instead is working for a photocopy company. Not only has he divorced his first wife, but he is estranged from sister Ginny (Claudia Karvan) over a bad investment loan. Devon is also consumed by guilt over an accident that injured his son and has basically lost any sense of drive or purpose. June is determined to repair her family, whether they want her help or not.
The three also head out on a brief road journey to find a dresser that holds deep personal significance for June. And as with most such journeys it provides an opportunity for some bonding, but also for learning about each other and their own problems, and for healing their differences.
The film has been nicely shot by cinematographer Hugh Miller, who has worked with Winlove previously.
Winlove has attracted a solid cast to flesh out the main characters. Hazlehurst has been a fixture on our screens, both big and small, for the better part of five decades, and she delivers one of her best performances here in a role that plays to her strengths. She is excellent in the role of the determined and strong-willed June and brings a feisty no-nonsense quality to the character while also showing her vulnerability and frailty. And she deftly captures her confused state in the early scenes that establish the sad reality of her plight. Curry is better known for his comedic roles in films like the classic The Castle, but he has also demonstrated his dramatic chops by playing the villain in Hounds Of Love, etc. He brings depth to his role as the angst ridden Devon, but he also manages to effectively capture that wounded and haunted quality that has shaped his life in recent years. He injects a touch of cynical humour into the role which masks his own pain. Karvan delivers a solid and sympathetic performance as Ginny, who has always had something of a love/hate relationship with June and seems overwhelmed in her presence. Their verbal sparring brings a frisson of tension to the material. Unfortunately, most of the other characters here lack depth and are underdeveloped.
June Again is an assured debut for Winlove. Although it is dealing with some tough subject matter, June Again is sweet-natured, poignant and touching but also quite funny and upbeat at times and potentially both a real tear jerker and crowd pleaser.
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