This one worked on me in the same unavoidably deep way the slightly similar Corrina, Corrina, Mandy, and Mermaid did – there are few things more upsetting to me than a silent, detached child, and few things more obliteratingly beautiful than when such children finally open up. When it comes to moments like that, this movie certainly succeeds, though I wonder about what movie would fail with such moments.
There are, however, a lot of dodgy performances scattered throughout, one of which it pains me to say is the girl herself. The girl who plays her aged 4 is much more natural than Alana De Roma who plays her for the bulk of the movie, who you realise eventually has probably been cast for her singing voice, which is perfect, than for her acting skills, something that doesn’t help her quieter scenes. To be fair, she does deliver the goods at the end (in a scene that reminded me a lot of Hitchcock’s Marnie, lol … eek, way too many references to other movies in this review, sorry).
On top of all those little flaws, though, in addition to the pure effect of the silent child thing, there’s the guy who lives across the street. The actor who portrays him is among one of the less than perfect performances (hey, even Rachel Griffiths isn’t particularly compelling here) – has a look somewhere between Kevin Bacon and Christian Bale, either of whom would’ve been better in an ideal world – but the character is really well-written … a guy who has grown so obsessed with his music he doesn’t even seem to like people listening anymore. Like the girl, like just about every other character in the movie in fact, he’s detached from society. But when she sings her first word in 3 years to him, he starts to try helping her, even in the face of horrendous accusations founded only in misunderstanding. Parts of this relationship reminded me of Digging to China – only this “older guy” actually has all his wits about him, thus even more aware of how odd and unacceptable the relationship could be perceived, and making it all the more beautiful that he persists for her sake. The montage where he takes her out for the day is pure cheese, but I found it bliss.
In fact, I just realised, the “Digging to China” comparison is perfect. ‘Cos even for its worst flaws, this is one that has a message and moments of brilliance that just override any negatives. I’ve hardly even mentioned it’s damn hilarious in places, too (“Go down the hallway on your right, go through the door, turn on the light!” LOL). In short: if the tearjerky stuff doesn’t get you, the singing Aussie cops will.