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Blessed

Based on the play Who’s Afraid of the Working Class, Ana Kokkinos’s Blessed is a claustrophobic film divided into two sections. After grabbing our attention with the hard-hitting Head On that featured Alex Dimitriades as a polarised member of the Italian community, Kokkinos then divided us with her self-conscious meditation on male rape in The Book of Revelation. It’s become a fashion with the director to search out the dark corners of society and her attraction to the dilemmas of isolated characters comes full circle with her latest project.
 

In the first half of Blessed, we meet the children. All at odds with their home lives, there’s Katrina (Sophie Lowe) and Trisha (Anastasia Baboussaras), two teenage girls with a preference for cutting school and shoplifting, Trisha’s brother Roo (Eamon Farron) who finds himself in the world of pornography and Daniel (Harrison Gilbertson) who, perhaps unjustly accused of stealing from his mother, runs headlong into a dark, liberating experience. Underpinning all this is yet another tale of two young runaways who may be teetering on the edge of tragedy. As ‘The Children’ section progresses, we meet their mothers who function as catalysts but it’s only when we meet these women up close that Blessed opens up.
 
Rhonda (Frances O’Connor), the pregnant mother of the two runaways, lives with the guilt that her various lovers may have impacted more on her children’s lives than she could have imagined. Daniel’s mother Tanya (Deborah Lee-Furness in a career-best performance) lives in an uncomfortable marriage with Peter (William McInnes), Katrina’s mother Bianca (Miranda Otto) is addicted to gambling and finally there’s Trisha’s religious mother Gina (Victoria Haralabidou), a seamstress, who lives in fear for her missing son.
 
As written, Blessed has the makings of a dynamite soap opera but ironies abound. It finds its strength in the deep-seated truth of what we know. Easily the most intense relationship of all is the one we share with our mothers and Kokkinos nails the portrayal within the context of the film. Like a velvet rope, there’s a remarkably delicate centre to this film yet at the outset it’s harshly coated. The people here, adults and children alike, are all feeling it, all trying to deny it, and as in most situations fraught with such anxiety, need to somehow explode to find the honesty.
 
Blessed finds that honesty too. Is Kokkinos trying to tell us today’s generation doesn’t know their families or, more simply, themselves? Consider the scene where Daniel forces his way into an old house only to be confronted by its occupant. It doesn’t end well but Daniel’s eyes are opened to himself and by a stranger no less. As I said, ironies abound, but there are none more exquisite than that final moment. Heavy-handed perhaps, but exquisite nonetheless.
Michael Dalton
www.iconmovies.com.au/blessed

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