Palace Nova, Thu 30 Apr.
Dr Travis Bell (Mark Leonard Winter) is a psychiatrist who is falling apart. Addicted to prescription painkillers and booze, he is barely able to help himself, let alone his patients. After a tragic incident in which he is culpable, he reaches a devastating low point and, vulnerable and weak, becomes easy prey for Father Jay (Steve Le Marquand from TV’s Rake) and his cult. Tom (Craig Behenna) and Grace (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) take Travis to The Farm, where he detoxes and eventually succumbs to Father Jay’s teachings. Travis appears to have been rehabilitated by Father Jay’s unusual methods, until he witnesses something in the forest that reveals the shadier truths of Father Jay’s cult.
This is a dark and disturbing debut feature film from the Adelaide team at Projector Films, touching on issues of mental illness, suicide, drug abuse, sexual abuse, violence, manipulation, vulnerability and violation of trust.
The film is buoyed by a truly wonderful performance from Mark Leonard Winter as Travis, who brings to life a deeply disturbed character in an immensely charismatic way. It’s simply impossible to take your eyes off him through all his pain, and especially in his ultimate heroic act. All other performances are excellent too, with Director Nick Matthews not forgetting to invest depth in the smaller roles. Behenna is excellent as Tom, Father Jay’s obedient but conflicted right-hand man and Rachel (Kate Cheel), the patient that Travis so tragically lets down, has a brief but impactful performance.
Outstanding cinematography (Jody Muston) which creates a noir-like ambience in the Adelaide Hills locations and superbly eerie sound design (Tom Heuzenroeder), coupled with the excellent performances and a screenplay dripping with emotion, tension and suspense all add up to an intense and moving screen experience.
With climactic scenes worthy of any blockbuster, but with emotional content skyrocketing past most movie fodder, One Eyed Girl is a small budget, big-hearted, Adelaide-made psychological thriller that is being noticed in the U.S. Winner of the prestigious Austin Film Festival’s Dark Matters Best Film Award and receiving rave reviews from Hollywood to New York, this is my pick for the Australian film of the year.
One Eyed Girl continues at the Palace Nova and Trak Cinemas.